City gathers input on Bath Skatepark's fate
BATH — City officials are gathering input from residents about whether they favor renovation or relocation of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark.
At the first of those meetings, held May 21 at the skatepark, Bath Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni presented the audience with several options for the facility, and their price tags:
• Renovation of the existing nearly 10,500-square-foot building: $1.3 million.
• Demolition and reconstruction at the present location: $1.8 million.
• Relocation to the armory on Old Brunswick Road: $2.5 million for purchase and renovation.
• Construction of a new, 5,166-square-foot facility: $1 million.
• A new 6,800-square-foot building: $1.32 million.
• A new 10,500-square-foot facility: nearly $2 million.
The first two options would require closing the skatepark for up to 18 months during renovation or construction, and the cost does not include the $180,000 necessary to remove the pool, boiler and locker room areas of the building, where the former YMCA used to operate.
"Obviously we're in an old building, we have a lot of issues with the building, and we continue to try to do improvements and put money into that," said Balboni, whose department merged with the skatepark last July and has become involved with its management.
While asbestos abatement has occurred in the building, the facility's long-term structural integrity and long-term mechanical and electrical needs continue to present problems, he said, in addition to an inefficient heating system. He also said the roof would probably need replacement within five or six years.
"We need to come up with a solution so we can go back to City Council and say this is where we want to go," Balboni said.
The armory is about 17,500 square feet, Balboni said, including a basement with water damage and drainage issues, leaving about 12,000 square feet of quality space upstairs.
"(There are) a lot of unknowns in that building," he said.
Joe Hemes of Stephen Blatt Architects, which recently conducted an electrical, mechanical and structural study of the former YMCA building, said the armory also needs significant work, such as gym roof replacement and energy efficiency improvements. More site work is needed, he said, adding that a hazardous materials investigation for asbestos and lead has yet to be conducted.
A new, energy-efficient steel building would be less costly to run, Hemes said.
If the skatepark is moved, there is a possibility that tax increment financing money from the Hampton Inn hotel being built downtown this year could help fund the project, Balboni said. Other funds could borrowed, a decision the council would have to make.
Resident Jackie Dwinal expressed support for the skatepark, but also voiced concern about the impact to taxpayers of bonding over 20 years. "I pay high taxes here in Bath," she said, "and I'm wondering, can the skatepark get the money themselves to do this?"
Balboni responded that "we're certainly concerned about what we put in (at the skatepark) to generate revenues in order to help sustain ourselves. I don't want it relying on tax dollars. There's no question about it."
He said the city is looking at "every alternative possible" for funding, regardless of the path the skatepark takes.
"We definitely want to find a way for it to survive," he added.
Teenager Isaac Adler of Woolwich, a skatepark user, suggested that better utilizing the Skatepark as a concert venue could be a strong source of revenue.
Halcyon Blake of Bath said the forums should speak to "the value, the importance, whether or not the city wants to have a place for its youth to be able to be in a safe environment, or whether we want to put them back onto the streets downtown, whether we want to have them at home in the afternoons ... whether we want them to have a place where they can get together with their friends. I think that the significance of the number of safe hours that have happened over the life of the skatepark is incalculable.
"As a citizen, no one wants to see higher taxes," Blake added. "And I totally agree with that. But in some ways I think we have to look at what we are willing to invest in, and the balance of what we invest in isn't always something that comes up directly against dollars."
Balboni said the skatepark board would review the information and viewpoints presented at the forums and then present a proposal to the City Council for consideration. The matter may go before the council in July.
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or email@example.com.