YARMOUTH — The Town Council agreed last week to seek grant funding to support the initial stages of a proposed new community center project.

Although developing a community center is a citizen-led effort, it still requires the full participation of the town to see the project to fruition.

At its Dec. 19 meeting, councilors agreed to submit a request for $150,000 to the Cumberland County Community Development Block Grant program. The goal, according to the Yarmouth Community Center Steering Committee, is to use the money to form engineering plans, overall design and site investigations for the Casco Masonic Lodge at 20 Mill St.

The committee expects it will take about $3 million to create the new multi-generational gathering place it has in mind, according to Barbara and Horace Horton, who are co-leading the effort to establish a community center.

Under current plans, the center will take over the bottom floor of the masonic lodge, and the Masons will continue to use the second floor. The goal is to also provide much-needed office space for a variety of social service programs, from the food pantry to the medical closet to the town’s Aging in Place initiative.

“Our mission is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for residents of all ages to engage with local services, educational opportunities, recreational activities and community events,” Barbara Horton said in a prior interview. “We want this to be a place to have fun and to maintain Yarmouth as a strong and nurturing community.”

General information about the project can be found online at yccmaine.org, where donations can also be made.

Scott LaFlamme, the town’s economic development director, said this week that only municipalities can apply for the federally funded Community Development Block Grants, which is why the council had to take a formal vote on applying for the money.

He said applications are due by the end of January, so it was important for the council to sign off on the funding now.

LaFlamme said improvements needed at the Masonic lodge include new windows and ensuring ADA access, along with “enhancing the overall functionality of the space.” Horton said she envisions multiple gathering places where residents can meet and greet each other.

Planning for the new community center began three years ago; both Hortons have said organizers don’t plan on using property tax revenue to operate the community center or perform the needed renovations.

Horace Horton has said the nonprofits invited into the center would be responsible for covering the operational expenses, including utilities and general maintenance.

According to Karyn MacNeill, director of Yarmouth Community Services, a community center would be beneficial because it would allow her department to offer daytime programming, which is limited now, and it would also give the town space for larger-sized groups to meet, among other amenities.

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