YARMOUTH — Three years after the idea was first floated, a community center is close to getting final approval to take over the Masonic Lodge on Mill Street.

The idea, according to Horace Horton, who co-chairs the Yarmouth Community Center Steering Committee with his wife Barbara, is to consolidate many of Yarmouth’s social services and other programming into a central location.

He said the two-acre property would become a community campus through “a unique collaboration among local nonprofits.”

The Masons would still use the upper floor for meetings and bean suppers, but the hope is the new community center could house Yarmouth Community Services, the food pantry, the medical loan closet and the town’s Aging in Place initiative.

The new space would also be shared with the adjacent 317 Main Community Music Center, Horton said. Overall, the hope is to create an inter-generational meeting and gathering place, which he said is much needed in town.

“Our goal is to create a hub of social services with private funding to improve the quality of life for Yarmouth citizens,” Horton said.

Horton said organizers have no intention of using tax revenue to operate the community center, perform renovations or construct a planned addition.

To give the Town Council a better idea of what could be accomplished, Town Manager Nat Tupper has arranged for councilors to take a site walk at the lodge May 30 at 6 p.m.

Horton said it’s an important step, since “the council has not seen the property as a group before.”

He said he expects trustees of the Casco Lodge, who officially own the building, to grant approval for its use as a community center sometime in June.

The current proposal, according to Tupper, is for the town to lease the building for the next 99 years at a cost of $1 per year.

He said the nonprofits invited into the center would be responsible for covering the operational expenses, including utilities and general maintenance. “All the costs would be born by the nonprofits that use it,” Horton said.

He said the steering committee has received “some seed money,” but plans for the community center are still “very preliminary,” so no formal fundraising has taken place.

However, Horton said he hopes to “move full steam ahead shortly.” Once that happens, he said, the steering committee would be able to “showcase the whole plan to the town.”

Karyn MacNeill, director of Yarmouth Community Services, said conversation about a new community center “began with the hopes of building a senior center type of building and has evolved into building a multi-generational (space) to meet the needs of various groups in (town).”

She said a community center would be beneficial because it would allow community services to offer daytime programming, which is limited now, and it would also give the town space for larger-sized groups to meet.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

A group of residents pushing for a new community center in Yarmouth hope to use the Casco Masonic Lodge at 20 Mill St. Final approvals for the project to move forward are expected sometime in June.

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