YARMOUTH — With a proposal for a Community Center project moving forward, the Town Council is considering creating a committee to oversee the effort.

The council is expected to discuss creating the oversight committee during a workshop at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6.

Town Manager Nat Tupper said the council has “a great deal of interest in working … to make sure the contemplated project … is appropriately designed, constructed and operated to meet the needs of the community.”

He said the idea is not to take over from the citizens group led by Horace Horton and Barbara Horton, who’ve been working for the past three years to get the proposed community center off the ground, but to work collaboratively with the current steering committee.

The idea is for the town to lease the Masonic Lodge on Mill Street for a minimal yearly amount and for the community center to incorporate a variety of resources, including becoming home to Yarmouth’s Community Services Department.

The food pantry, the medical loan closet and the town’s Aging in Place initiative would also be invited to the community center, according to Horace Horton, who recently called the project “a unique collaboration among local nonprofits.”

In addition, Horton said the new space would also be shared with the 317 Main Community Music Center, which is located next door. Creating an inter-generational meeting and gathering place for residents is the hope.

This week Horton said the current steering committee has discussed the need for the Town Council to appoint what’s being described as a “larger stakeholder group … to help refine the grand vision and the coordination of all interests.”

Tupper said if the new oversight committee is created, the goal would be to get the 11-member group up and running as soon as possible.

Its charge would be to discuss the mission and vision of the community center, as well as create strategic goals and make recommendations for how best to move the project forward.

Tupper said if the town is going to be the landlord, there are also several requirements the community center must meet, including compliance with Yarmouth’s code of ordinances and its risk management and public use policies.

In addition, he said the town would also have the responsibility of ensuring that the new community center is “a respectful and considerate neighbor” and any parking arrangements “promote good commerce and community interests in the village.”

Tupper also said the new oversight committee could help in defining and planning any town action or investment to “both complement and leverage success of (the community center) and provide for the greatest public benefit.”

The key, he said, is making sure the community center “provides the widest and most sustained public good” and that the benefits “are widely shared” so that one user group doesn’t dominate the building or its uses.

According to Tupper, the “Masons wanted a group like the Town Council to serve as the broker or referee of those various interests over time, including setting priorities for competing demands and uses in the future.”

He said the council has not yet decided whether the new oversight committee would only be in place to get the community center up and running or whether it would more of a long-standing group.

Tupper said the original members would be asked to serve at least during the initial construction, leasing, design and permitting phases.

“I would imagine in the future some other type of trustee type of organization would be established to deal with building maintenance, use conflicts, rents and lease fees, planning capital projects, programming, etc.,” he said.

Tupper said the goal is for the oversight committee to be an advisory group only and the Town Council would make any and all formal decisions, including the terms of any lease agreements.

While the membership of the oversight committee is yet to be determined, the recommendation is to include residents who would represent most of the community groups interested in relocating to the center.

Tupper said the current steering committee would still be running the project, but the new oversight group would make sure that the voice of the Town Council and town staff is “more clearly heard.”

This week Leigh Kirchner, Yarmouth’s Aging in Place coordinator, said the proposed collaboration with the town on the community center project “is much appreciated.”

Beth Costello, president of Yarmouth Cares About Neighbors, said her group is “very excited … (about) this collaborative town-wide effort. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to help this community center vision progress.”

“We are extremely appreciative of this gift from the Masons and the opportunities it presents to the Yarmouth community,” she said.

During a recent meeting, the current steering committee discussed construction at the community center being accomplished in two phases while fundraising is going on.

The first phase would include installing windows and new bathrooms, while raising the ceiling and bringing the building up to code.

The second phase would include an addition to accommodate a “whole array of potential users.”

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


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