Shaw Earthworks of Gorham is doing sitework for $1.2 million in improvements at the Cornelia Warren Recreation Complex in Westbrook. Robert Lowell / American Journal

The Westbrook City Council in a preliminary vote Monday struck down the city administration’s effort to add an ice rink and pickleball courts to improvements underway at the Warren Outdoor Recreation Area.

After hearing from opponents who said the plan lacked public input and collaboration with stakeholders, the council voted 6-0 against the plan with Councilor Claude Rwaganje absent.

“At the very least the city is moving forward without any shareholder communication or community involvement, and this is either due to lack of planning at best, and at worst, it is intentionally malicious and violates the process of checks and balances on government,” Warren Lain, a member of the Recreation and Conservation Commission, said in an email to the City Council President Anna Turcotte.

In June, the recreation commission failed to recommend, in a 3-3 deadlock vote, the combined rink and courts for the recreation complex off Main Street.

Councilor Victor Chau said at the meeting that he did not feel comfortable voting for something the recreation commission could not recommend.

Mayor Michael Foley said Wednesday that the City Council had asked the administration to identify a location to replace the ice rink on Stroudwater Street, now the site of a Westbrook Housing Authority project, and to “move forward with design, planning and pricing.” The housing authority offered to donate $150,000 towards a new rink.


“We thought the dual rink/pickleball courts would have been a great addition to this project, making it a year-round facility and adding a new and growing recreation option in the community that many members of the public have been asking for,” Foley said.

The city had asked the recreation commission to approve $100,000 in open space funds to be put toward the rink and courts, which would cost a total of $238,820. Those upgrades would have been part of a $1.2 million improvement project that is underway at the recreation area.

“The project scope includes improvements (e.g., grading, drainage, utilities, ADA accessibility, etc.) to the ball fields, portions of the trail, parking lot, driveway and entrance to include sidewalks, signage, lighting, etc. and an additional multi-use field,” Westbrook’s project manager Robyn Saunders said in an email to the American Journal.

Foley said that project, which has been in the works for a few years, would continue as planned.

The city proposed that the rink and pickleball courts could be located at the site of the outdoor swimming pool, which was constructed in 1984 to replace a pool that had been built in 1949. The pool was in serious disrepair and deemed unsafe for swimmers.

Phil Spiller Jr., whose father when mayor secured federal funding for the 1984 replacement, said the pool has been removed from the recreation area over the last couple of months.


Recreation commission member Nathaniel Dyer said in an email to the City Council that he found both the elimination of the pool and the plan to move ahead with the ice rink “deeply troubling.”

“The removal of the pool without a concrete plan for its replacement leaves the citizens and children of Westbrook without any outdoor water feature for an indefinite period of time,” Dyer said. “Additionally, the lack of adequate community input and collaboration regarding the rink concept is deeply troubling.”

Spiller, a former member of the recreation commission, said a splash pad was included as part of the improvement project when he wrote the application for funding from the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund. Now, he said, a splash pad is not part of the upgrades. He had actively opposed adding an ice skating rink and pickleball courts to the recreational area without proof, he said, that those additions would be allowed under the grant as written.

The City Council will take a final vote on the ice rink and pickleball courts at an upcoming meeting.

The city has spent $8,500 in design and construction drawings for the rink and courts.

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