This undated photo shows what was once known as Alger Hall, more recently the Masonic Lodge building at 649 Route 1 in Scarborough. The town council recently voted to buy and renovate the building to preserve it. Courtesy / Town of Scarborough

SCARBOROUGH — The Scarborough Town Council has voted to purchase and renovate the Masonic Lodge building on Route 1 for $398,000, a move that one town councilor says preserves a building with historic value.

The council voted 5-2 at its Dec. 16 meeting to buy the building, with Councilors Jonathan Anderson and Betsy Gleysteen casting the dissenting votes. Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina said this week that town officials discovered the building was up for sale last month.

Caterina, who acts as the council’s liaison to the historical preservation committee, said she believes the building dates back to the early Grange movement and may have been one of the first Grange halls in the state.

“I just think it makes sense, purely from a preservation viewpoint,” she said at the meeting.

Town Manager Tom Hall said the town may put out a request for proposals as early as spring 2021 for the renovation work.

Fire Chief Michael Thurlow said this week that the building, which is located right next to the Dunstan Fire Station, has a total of more than 4,500 square feet and might make for a good public gathering space.

“It does have a good-sized hall,” he said.

Not everyone supports the purchase, however. Ocean View Harbor resident Randy Hogan said at the meeting that she liked the idea of more public spaces, but pointed out there are fewer than 10 parking spaces and the building doesn’t have a stair lift or elevator.

“That’s really a significant challenge,” she said.

Anderson and Gleysteen both voiced concerns about the cost. While the town does allow purchasing buildings with historic significance through the Land Bond Acquisition Fund, both said they worried about bonding that much money. Anderson noted that working out the town’s 2021 budget was tough enough, given the economic hardship from the pandemic, and next year’s budget season won’t be any easier.

“Knowing that last year was a tough budget year, I think we need to make that a top priority,” he said.

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