Jamie Dorr is executive director of Midcoast Community Alliance, which leases the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark from the city and seeks to buy it. With Dorr are two members of the teen center’s youth leadership program, Addie Hines and Charlie Thelen. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BATH — Were it not for the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark, Charlie Thelen and Addie Hinds said they would likely go home and watch TV after a day at Bath Middle School.

Instead, they are among 70-90 students who frequent the youth hub, run by Midcoast Community Alliance. The Bath-area nonprofit organization – geared toward supporting youth mental and physical health – looks to purchase the Skatepark from the city, with an eye toward expanding and improving programming space in the building.

In the meantime, the alliance – which leases the building for $1,000 a month – aims to assume all operations of the 4 Old Brunswick Road facility, a former National Guard Armory that the city purchased in 2010, by July 1. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department operates and staffs the Skatepark.

The Skatepark operates in a former National Guard Armory that the city purchased in 2010. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

The alliance is in great need of more space, and Executive Director Jamie Dorr would like to renovate the building’s downstairs area in order to expand the teen center.

“In the past year, our teen center attendance has doubled as we meet the needs of the youth community,” she said. “We are bursting at the seams, and we’re just getting started.”

The Skatepark, located just up the hill from Bath Middle School, already provides much to area youth. Along with a 6,000-square-foot room dedicated to those who skateboard, bike, and ride scooters, the teen center offers after-school snacks, games, homework assistance, hands-on activities, youth mentoring and guidance, and hot meals in the evening.

Thelen, a sixth grader who walks up Old Brunswick Road from the middle school, said many of his friends attend, and he’s forged new friendships as well. He enjoys playing pool and piano there, and would like to see teen space downstairs in order to allow youths to spread out.

“It’s always really crowded around, and there’s not enough space for everyone to play around and be active, but also keep it chill somewhat,” Thelen said. “Just expanding generally would really help out.”

“There’s so much to this place,” said Hinds, an eighth grader who, like Thelen, is part of the teen center’s youth leadership program. “It’s really amazing to see how much it’s grown, and every day there’s something that’s added. … I know so many people from school now because of here.”

Still, “substantial building and safety improvements need to be made to better serve youth and our community,” Dorr said, noting a desire to shift the main entrance away from the parking lot. “We have quite a dream taking shape for this space, which has become a lifeline for many kids and families. But we need more freedom to expand and improve what we are offering.”

Since it only rents the building, the alliance can’t really ask the city to fund that work, she said. But by buying the building, the alliance could make those improvements as it saw fit.

The alliance’s board of trustees submitted an official letter of interest to City Manager Peter Owen, but numbers have yet to be discussed.

“The city owns many buildings, and yet that was bought specifically for the Skatepark,” Owen said. “We’re all in favor of letting them go in the direction that they’re going, because it’s a great thing for the community.”

Built in 1900, the building has an appraised value of just over $1 million, is nearly 10,300 square feet, and sits on 2 acres, according to the city.

In coming up with a price for the property, “it’s not as simple as saying, ‘what’s it worth,'” Owen said. “Because we’re not selling this to a developer; we’re selling it to a community organization that has a vested interest in (Bath). They’re a nonprofit. … We’d like to see them be successful.”

“We’re reviewing our procedure for selling that building, and making sure we go through all the adequate procedures that have been laid out,” Owen said, adding the price should be fair to taxpayers and the alliance alike.

The city purchased the armory for $175,000 and invested $308,000 in renovations at the building. That work was confined to the areas to be used for the Skatepark, with lower-level work completed only to the level necessary for code compliance and safety.

Two years of payments – nearly $82,000 total – are scheduled for fiscal years 2021 and 2022, according to Finance Director Juli Millett.

The city could decide to wait until that debt has been paid off before selling the building, Owen said. The City Council must ultimately vote on selling it.

The alliance will launch a fundraising campaign once a purchase price has been determined, Dorr said.

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