Armory board questions persist
BATH — After nearly two hours of discussion about proposed bylaws for a new board of directors to operate the cityowned armory building — and about whether that board should even exist — Bath city councilors on Thursday remained unclear about what direction they should take.
The City Council in December approved relocating the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark to the former National Guard Armory building, and paying $308,000 to upgrade the building. On a motion by Councilor Kyle Rogers, they also created a board of directors to oversee the building.
But the question of whether that board would charge occupants of the building rent remained on the table.
At their Jan. 4 meeting, councilors tabled discussion of bylaws for that board — and also tabled a proposal by Councilor Mari Eosco to reconsider establishing the board.
At Thursday’s workshop, Eosco again presented her previous proposal to reconsider establishing the board of directors, noting that the Recreation Department could instead maintain the building.
Councilors Meadow Rue Merrill and Andy Winglass concurred, with Merrill noting, “ I tend to want to put confidence in the people we’ve already appointed to positions in the city.”
“We already have a Recreation Department and someone we already pay,” Winglass said. “I’m more inclined to put my faith in something like that going forward.”
But Rogers said a board of directors for the armory would “protect the taxpayer,” and, if problems arise, would give the councilors “ somebody to go back to and say, ‘What happened?’” The board wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with the tenants, he said.
Other stumbling blocks include whether organizations that move into the building, including the skate park, should pay rent.
Councilors reviewed proposed bylaws developed by a subcommittee made up of Rogers, Winglass and skate park board member Rob Kerr. The proposed armory board bylaws are based on bylaws that apply to an oversight board for the city-owned Customs House.
But some councilors argued that the Customs House leases to forprofit businesses, and those organizations slated to move into the armory building — an antique fire engines group as well as the skate park — are nonprofit.
“What I would like to see — I know it’s not going to garner many votes from anybody — is, there is no reason ... no reason whatsoever that the Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark could not pay rent,” Rogers said. With a city subsidy of $40,000, he said, the board could also seek grants “and become self-sustaining, because I haven’t seen it yet ... and there’s nothing out there that leads me to believe that’s going to change.”
During a public comment portion of the meeting, former city councilor Jamie Omo — one of three people to speak Thursday — said, “Kyle, this appears to me that this is about the almighty dollar,” prompting City Council chairman David Sinclair to warn Omo against “calling out” a councilor.
Omo continued that the Bath Recreation Department “does a wonderful job,” and said, “It just seems to me this is in some way an attempt to have control over the Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark. You have all the control — it’s yours. If they don’t make it, you ... say, ‘Sorry, you need to get out.’ I do not understand ... why this board needs to be in place to do what the staff does every day.”
Sinclair said he had expected councilors would come to Thursday’s workshop with suggestions to move forward, noting that the board will make a decision in February.
Councilors tasked City Solicitor Roger Therriault with drafting a “duties and powers document” to “help contextualize the bylaws” in advance of the next council meeting, on Feb. 8, although Therriault told them he was “not real confident” he understood the scope of what councilors want.