WATERVILLE — The Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5 plans to sell its prominent building on College Avenue to the Augusta-based Children’s Discovery Museum this fall, marking a big change to a landmark in the downtown corridor that would also force the city to find a new polling place for elections.

The legion post plans move its headquarters to a building on Drummond Avenue that once housed the Humane Society Waterville Area, according to legion officials.

Legion Adjutant Carl Paradis confirmed Tuesday that the post is moving because the building at 21 College Ave., which is27,129 square feet, is too large for its purposes. Where once the legion had 1,200 members, it now has 583 and it is still the largest post in the state, Paradis said. Post 5 has been in existence since 1919 and in the College Avenue building since 1951, he said.

“It was built in 1949-50,” he said. “It was built for the legion; it was built by the members of the legion.”

The Children’s Discovery Museum, long a fixture for Augusta-area families with young children, announced nearly a year ago that it would be moving to the downtown Waterville area but has since been mum on the exact location. Paradis said the Legion building sale with the museum is scheduled to close in early October.

Asked to comment on the proposed sale, Amarinda Keys of the Discovery Museum, in Augusta, said Tuesday in an email that museum officials were hoping to make an announcement in the fall about a new location.

“Unfortunately, we can’t at this time because of funding opportunities that are currently being reviewed and submitted,” Keys wrote.

Meanwhile, the selling of the American Legion building means that Waterville elections no longer will be held in that building, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois, who recommended to the City Council Tuesday night that the city hold elections at the Thomas College field house. The city’s next election is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

“The Secretary of State has reviewed the available options, and concurs with my recommendation,” Dubois told councilors. “Although formal City Council action is not required, I would respectfully request your support of my recommendation of the Harold Alfond Athletic Center, located at Thomas College, 180 West River Road, as the city’s next polling location.”

Dubois said if the sale of the American legion building does not go through for any reason, the site would not be available for use by the city, long-term.

“Since this is an off-election year, it is a good time to move to a new location and work out the kinks before the gubernatorial next year,” she said. “This has been a great relationship for the past 16 years. We thank the commanders, members and the staff at the American Legion and wish them well in their new location.”

The city, she said, paid the legion $700 per election.

Many years ago, elections were held in five places in the city’s seven wards, including at schools, but in 2002 all elections started being held at the American Legion hall at Dubois’ recommendation. There are about 200 parking spaces surrounding the Legion building that are available for use.

Dubois said going back to holding elections in public schools is not the answer as three days’ use of schools presents a hardship, there are traffic and parking problems with it when students are in school and about 400 voters an hour come and go, and it can be dangerous for students. All citizens get to vote — even the ones who are not allowed in schools when students are present, Dubois said.

She said the city wants to have one polling location as opposed to several and maintain continuity for voters. One location would mean reduced costs to the city for rental fees, setup costs and advertising, according to Dubois. She said a polling place must be available for three days, have at least 7,000-square-feet of space and adequate parking — at least 130 spaces — be handicapped accessible and a reliable space.

The city looked at several options for elections, including the Thomas College gymnasium, Champions Fitness Club and T&B Celebration Center, according to Dubois. Officials eliminated 14 other places that were not appropriate for elections for lack of parking, size and other reasons.

Elections administration has changed dramatically over the years, according to Dubois.

“It is now an extremely technical, detailed, intense and highly scrutinized process,” she said. “The days of housewives working at the polls, bringing their homemade baked goods to share, while knitting and chatting with their friends and neighbors are a thing of the past. Workers now face a grueling 15 plus hour day, which is focused on production and accuracy. Honestly, it surprises me every year that the election workers are willing to come back.”

The building on Drummond Avenue the American Legion plans to buy in early October was most recently used for offices and a woodworking shop. Paradis said the legion used to hold beano games in its large space on the main floor of the College Avenue building, but there will be no need for that at the Drummond Avenue building.

“It will work out well for us because, first of all, it’s a smaller building so we won’t have as many expenses and there’s an outdoor area we can utilize,” he said. “We’re not going to have beano anymore because beano’s dying in the state. People would rather go to casinos than play beano. The majority of people playing beano are elderly and they are passing on and it’s hard to get the younger people to pick it up.”

He said that last year, 29 members died.

“We’ve been averaging between 37 and 42 a year,” he said, of member deaths. “A lot of members are still World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans are in their 70s.”

Prior to building the post home on College Avenue in 1959 and 1950, the legion was in a house on the corner of Silver and Spring streets where U.S. Cellular now is located, according to Paradis. After the house was torn down, a gas station was at the site, he said.

When the legion planned to move from that site and build a new home on College Avenue, legion officials approached the city and asked what residents wanted to see in a new building, according to Paradis.

“They said they’d like to see a dance floor. That is why the building is so big and there’s a stage. Big bands came to play. Now people don’t do that anymore. It was built to give to the community and for our membership. Slowly, we bought buildings on the side of it, tore them down and enlarged the space for our parking area.”

Paradis, who is a former legion commander and has been a member about 41 years, said the College Avenue site has a lounge, meeting rooms and offices on the ground floor and the main floor was where people played beano and city elections were held. The legion hopes to do more outdoor activities, including concerts, at the Drummond Avenue site.

The legion’s finance officer, Fred Berard, said Tuesday that legion members have been packing in preparation for the move to the Drummond Avenue building, which had three offices as well as a workshop.

The post plans to sell some of its tables and chairs to the city and some to private people, according to Paradis. Officials also plan to hold a yard sale in a few weeks as they will not move everything in the building to the new post home, he said.

Councilors Tuesday thanked Dubois for all her hard work in researching options for polling places.

Mayor Nick Isgro asked her if there might be a problem with some people accessing Thomas College because of the distance from downtown. She said people may vote by absentee ballot at City Hall for 30 days before an election and those needing transportation to the polls may contact her office.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17