Council warms to $9M unified plan for Freeport fields
FREEPORT — The Town Council did not take any formal action Tuesday night, but councilors reacted favorably to a combined proposal of more than $9 million for fields, trails and outdoor recreation from community and school groups.
The two groups are community members known as Freeport Fields and Trails, backed by the Freeport Economic Development Corp., and a group of parents, coaches, and school and town representatives known as the Athletic and Recreational Facilities Advisory Committee.
Dave Latulippe of the Fields and Trails Committee and Craig Sickels, Regional School Unit 5 athletic director, presented their plans to a room filled with approximately 70 supporters. Many spoke of the benefits a field project could bring to the town.
The Fields and Trails Committee wants to develop a parcel of land on Hunter Road that would include four playing fields, three baseball diamonds, a sledding hill, 12 miles of trails for Nordic skiing and cross-country running and a two-story recreational lodge.
The school group proposed its plan for a high school campus complex with an eight-lane track, turf field, lights, bleachers, concessions, bathrooms and a press box.
Although the two groups had been working independently, they decided to combine their projects to solve the problem of inadequate field space.
Even Seacoast United Maine, a nonprofit soccer club based in Topsham that recently purchased about 13 acres from the town to build two turf fields, an indoor arena and a Little League Field on Pownal Road, will have a part in the project.
Latulippe said the soccer club ran into wetland permitting problems and needed space to build one of their turf fields. As a result, Seacoast United will build one field on the Hunter Road property at no cost to the town, Latulippe said. It will be available for unlimited school and community use from July 1 to Jan. 1 of every year.
The cost of both projects would be close to $9.4 million, Latulippe said.
The Hunter Road land and permitting will cost $425,000; the site work is estimated at $1.9 million and $175,000 in contingency has been built into the budget, he said. While the subtotal is $2.9 million, the recreational lodge is estimated to cost $575,000 and a three-year maintenance plan would be $375,000.
Latulippe said $950,000 in private funding would be required.
The high school campus complex plan is estimated to cost about $2.9 million.
Although the projects total nearly $9.4 million, Latulippe told councilors that the project is offered to the town "at a huge discount."
He said the $3 million Seacoast United turf field would have no financial impact to taxpayers. The Hunter Road project is estimated to cost $3.5 million and the school plan comes in at $2.9 million.
Since nearly $1 million for the Hunter Road project would be paid for in private funds and with the cost-share agreement between the three RSU 5 towns, Durham and Pownal would pay close to $1 million for the school project.
"The town would get a $9.4 million investment for $4.4 million," Latulippe said. "That is a 55 percent discount."
Students athletes representing soccer and lacrosse teams spoke in favor of the project. Members of the Nordic skiing team touted the benefits of having a home trail system over traveling to Pineland Farms and other towns with facilities to compete.
Residents spoke of the benefits of hosting events and tournaments in town. They said it would boost the economy, provide restaurants and hotel owners with business and encourage visitors to visit Freeport during the winter months.
Freeport ski coach Doug Martin said the council has an opportunity to take a project that is "good for the school, good for the community and good for the state," and move it forward.
Ben Gray of Freeport told councilors he is a conservative taxpayer, but if the funding was needed, "this is a bond issue I would vote for."
Councilors spoke in favor of the combined projects, but said no decision would be made for a few months.
Council Chairman Jim Cassida said the project offers a lot of value to the town and said he would work to move the project forward.
"It is encouraging to see a combination of the projects and the sharing of resources and vision," he said.
Councilor Sara Gideon said the one-vision proposal is a benefit to the town.
"I hear a call to the council to dare to be great," she said. "Be patient with us to get through this process the right way."
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org