News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 8, 2018
Community shows support for ICC, lease extension buys time

by Faith DeAmbrose

Stonington and Deer Isle voters affirmed support for the Island Community Center at annual town meetings on March 5. In Stonington, the conversation lasted 42 minutes, and was a separate article from the nonprofit’s annual financial request. In Deer Isle, a slightly reworded monetary request also included language of support and passed without discussion.

At issue is the condition of the building, estimated to have repair costs in excess of a half million dollars, according to a report commissioned by the town of Stonington. And while some called for the building to be repaired and others questioned whether that building was the best option, support was near unanimous for the center and its ever-growing programming.

An article on the Stonington warrant, submitted by the ICC board of trustees, sought to affirm support, and an overwhelming “yes” vote sent a message about the importance of the center to the community.

The article also sought to extend the ICC’s current lease with the town. ICC Vice President Nat Barrows said the intent of the article “was to buy some time…to look at ways to continue the programs.” He said the extension would allow time to create “concrete plans for saving—or not saving—the building.”

The article was modified from its original request to insert language to include the town of Deer Isle in conversations. The change was introduced by resident Doug Johnson who said his intent was to “make it clear that voters believe it is an island resource.” When asked, the majority of selectmen said they would be open to working with Deer Isle as the conversation continued.

“All of it is complicated,” said Town Manager Kathleen Billings, and is further complicated by the fact the nonprofit leases the space, which had once been a school gymnasium and classrooms, from the municipality. Citing risk, and insurance issues, along with possible IRS issues if the town were to borrow money to benefit one organization, she added: “There are things to think about.”

The selectmen and town manager expressed favor with the mission and programming of ICC but stopped short at a blanket agreement to look only at saving the building. “The ICC is not necessarily the building, but it is the programs,” said Evelyn Duncan.

“I am in favor of the center,” said Selectman Donna Brewer, “I am just not sure what’s the best way to go.”

Resident and ICC trustee Don Colson suggested that “it’s worth trying [to save the building] and said the extension of the lease “means we can come back to next town meeting with a plan.”