Freeport fields project gets $500K from L.L. Bean

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FREEPORT — L.L. Bean will donate $500,000 to the Freeport Fields and Trails project.

Company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said Bean will contribute the money without restrictions.

“The gift was given without specification. It is (to be determined) if it will be used for a particular purpose or just for the project itself (in general),” Beem said Wednesday morning.

Kate Arno, president of the Freeport Economic Development Corp., the sponsor of the approximately $3.3 million project off Hunter Road, read a letter from Bean President Chris McCormick announcing the donation at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting. 

“We are delighted to have L.L. Bean join us in the effort,” she said.

David Latulippe, an organizer of Freeport Fields and Trails, said the private group still must raise about $250,000 to complete the funding. He said all the state and town permits have been acquired and the plan to build seven athletic fields on 38 acres is on schedule.

A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for June 14 and the running and hiking trails are expected to be complete and the fields seeded by Sept. 30, he said.

“We are planning on going to bid next week, and the start date is the first week of June” Latulippe said.

The L.L. Bean Board of Director’s approved the $500,000 gift on May 13.

In his letter, McCormick said “as we approach our 100th anniversary, it seems natural to support a project that will offer more young people and families the opportunity to spend time in the outdoors right here in Freeport. Our company was built on the philosophy that outdoor experiences enhance our lives, and this project fits nicely with that ideal.

“We are excited about the plan. It is well thought out, integrates well with existing outdoor trails and public properties, and has been presented with great enthusiasm and clarity.”

In other business, the Town Council Tuesday night did not vote to reconsider the $9.3 million 2012 operating budget that was approved May 3, but agreed to revisit the budget format for 2013.

Councilor Eric Pandora voted to approve the operating budget reluctantly at the May 3 council meeting with the intention of seeking reconsideration on Tuesday.

Pandora argued that the budget format did not comply with the Town Charter. He said the charter states the budget must show comparative figures for the actual and estimated revenue and expenditures of the current fiscal year and the previous year, and it was not presented that way.

“I don’t want to end up in court over this,” Pandora said. “I want to stop the process and have (the finance director) look at it.”

He created examples of budget formats and councilors agreed to address the issue in the coming months. They also advised Town Manager Dale Olmstead to acquire a written legal opinion stating the budget documents are not out of compliance with the charter.

Olmstead advised the council to begin the process in November when new councilors are elected. He suggested that council should meet with him, the finance director and the town attorney to study the charter and formulate a new budget format at that time.

“Reasonable people can read the same policy and come to different conclusions, ” Olmstead said.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twiter: @amy_k_anderson.

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