WINDHAM — A discussion of possible uses for the town-owned Morrell property grew heated at the town council meeting Tuesday night, with some councilors asserting others had “no interest in compromising.”

The so-called Morrell property is a 24-acre parcel adjacent to Smith Cemetery just south of the 302/202 rotary. The town purchased the land in 2005 for $400,000.

At the time, one future use mentioned for the land was expansion of the cemetery. The site has also recently been tapped as the location for a new community center.

Interim Town Manager Don Gerrish wanted to discuss the council’s goals for the property Tuesday, asking “What is your direction, what are you looking for for the use of that property?”

Some councilors supported using it for cemetery expansion. Councilor Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Cummings said there is other available space in town for the community center, and “the intent [for the property] was a cemetery.”

She also cited traffic concerns due to the site’s location near the rotary.

Council Chairman Clayton Haskell said he would like to use the land solely for cemetery expansion.

“We have no [other] land adjacent to cemeteries to expand on. That [land] needs to be for the cemetery expansion,” he said.

Councilor Jarrod Maxfield took issue with the assertion that the land was intended to be used for cemetery expansion, saying it was “an idea.”

Councilor Bob Muir was on the council when the land was bought and said “I voted to buy that property, and it was for cemetery expansion.”

A 2005 memo from then-Town Manager Tony Plante to the council says that the property “has long been identified as being desirable for cemetery expansion, the subject of a committee which studied cemetery needs several years ago, as well as other possible future municipal uses.”

Maxfield supported having multiple uses for the site, including extending the cemetery by a few acres and continuing to explore the option of locating a  community center there. Councilor Tim Nangle agreed.

“I think this is Bob Muir’s way of killing the project because it’s going to be expensive. He does not like spending money,” Nangle said in an interview Wednesday.

After hearing other councilors speak Tuesday, Maxfield added, “I hear councilors here who are not able to entertain the idea of dual use. Clearly, you have no interest in compromising. It’s ridiculous.”

“If we want to start all working unified and getting along, we can get a lot done. Or we can sit up here and bicker. We can do this without name calling or blame gaming,” Councilor Donna Chapman said.

The proposed expansion to Smith Cemetery would be nearly two acres in size with room for 204 lots, or 816 individual graves.

Because all councilors seemed interested in expanding the cemetery to some degree, Gerrish advised that such a motion be put on a future agenda while the community center option is further explored.

Councilors also appointed Marge Govoni to the RSU 14 School Board Tuesday night. There was a vacancy on the board after David Lydon was forced to step down when his wife recently accepted a job in the school system.

Govoni was defeated at the polls in November in a three-way race and had previously been a School Board member since 2009.

Cummings said, “The people that have worked with you in the past have nothing but positive things to say. Welcome aboard.”

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at [email protected]

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