Bath weighs 3 demolition options for old YMCA

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BATH — The City Council discussed three demolition options Wednesday night for the former YMCA on Summer Street.

The council will weigh the matter further in a 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall on Aug. 18.

The old Y – replaced when the Bath Area Family YMCA opened on Centre Street in 2001 – is the home of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark. The older building’s largely dilapidated state has left the fate of the Skatepark uncertain, and the former National Guard Armory on Old Brunswick Road has been eyed as a possible venue for the youth center.

The council voted last year to borrow up to $175,000 to purchase the Armory, and later turned the building over to the Bath Development Corp., which could use grant funding to improve the building. A use for the property still has not been determined.

Stephen Blatt Architects, the consultant for determining a course of action with the old Y, presented the city with demolition options last month.

The first, at an estimated cost of nearly $274,000, would see the pool, boiler and fitness sections of the facility torn down, while the gym and lobby would continue to be used for the Skatepark. But Blatt considers this option difficult due to lack of space for staging a demolition crane, recycling containers and temporary material storage.

The second option, estimated to cost more than $410,000, would include demolition of the entire facility. Demolition staging would be easier from Summer Street through removal of the gym and lobby first, and the gym area would provide space for the crane to be staged, as well as for the recycling containers and material storage.

The third, which could cost nearly $468,000, calls for the pool, boiler and fitness areas to be demolished first, with the gym and lobby to come down separately later on.

City Manager Bill Giroux said Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni, whose department maintains the building, told him about a month ago about a significant hole in the pool roof and separation in adjoining walls with abutting properties.

“This building is in significant jeopardy; at least parts of it probably should be dealt with before winter, or at least work begun before winter,” Giroux said.

Andy Winglass was among the councilors who encouraged constituents to let the council know which option is preferred.

He said he has walked through the building and that it looked like “something out of a Stephen King movie.”

Balboni said the building offers much more than a Skatepark.

“It’s a place for kids to come; we have a number of kids that come in there just because they need a place to go after school,” he said. “… It’s not just about skateboarding. It’s computers, there are places to hang out, there are places to see your friends, a concession stand,” music and more.

Balboni said the Armory provides an opportunity for the Skatepark to relocate. He said he and the Skatepark board of directors recommend the third option, and that they would like to work with the City Council to “try to create a concept (at the Armory and consider) what could it be, where would the money come from, what are our options over there.”

He added that if the Skatepark could be a possible use for the Armory, “we would like to be part of the process of finding other sources of funding, or identifying what could be out there.”

Halcyon Blake, a former city councilor who founded Halcyon Yarn in Bath and serves on the Skatepark board, noted that “we’ve provided support for teens in counseling initiatives, arts initiatives, programs for skating, for biking … we have games, we have music. … We’ve provided thousands of hours of supervised safe time for teens and young kids who would otherwise be on their own a great deal of the day.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.