SANFORD — A caterer at a local banquet hall has promised to stop hosting monthly sex parties that have shocked townspeople and jeopardized the company’s operating licenses.

The town was abuzz Wednesday after town officials ordered James and Susan Colley of Springvale to stop hosting parties for a southern Maine swingers’ club at the former Knights of Columbus hall at 47 High St., which has been a polling place for more than 20 years.

Town officials are so concerned that residents may be offended at the prospect of voting where sex parties occurred, they are directing Ward 7 voters to cast their ballots at the Ward 3 polling place at the St. Ignatius Gym on Riverside Avenue.

“Not knowing what might be present or how clean the hall might be, we moved the polling place in case anyone might be uncomfortable voting there,” Town Clerk Sue Cote said. “We’ve been looking to consolidate polling places anyway, so we’re getting a jump on that.”

Cote said the Colleys won’t be getting their usual $100 annual stipend for hosting a polling place. The loss of income, though small, comes at a bad time for the Colleys.

Court records show the Colleys and Great Beginnings Catering at Mousam View Place are in bankruptcy proceedings, though the banquet hall is a popular venue for local events and both James and Susan Colley work for Sanford Community Adult Education.

Sanford school officials have taken no action to remove the Colleys from their jobs. He is an instructor and she is a secretary, according to School Business Manager Michael Kucsma.

Town officials said they took action after two undercover police officers attended a Halloween party at the banquet hall Oct. 15 and saw about 40 people engaging in all forms of sexual activity.

An Oct. 21 letter to the Colleys outlines several ways that the sex parties violate town and state licensing regulations. It also orders them to stop promoting the 500-seat banquet hall as a venue for sex parties and admitting patrons “for purposes of engaging in or observing nudity or sexual conduct.”

The building is owned by Northborough Realty Holdings of Chelmsford, Mass. The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic service organization and social club, sold the building in 2002, according to the deed.

Great Beginnings Catering is a tenant in the building, which can be rented for weddings and other events. Gov. Paul LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen spoke at events there in the spring.

The catering company’s food, liquor, dance and entertainment licenses are up for renewal on Tuesday before the Town Council. The liquor license expired Oct. 5 and the other licenses will expire Dec. 31, Cote said. On Oct. 12, James Colley applied for new licenses at 47 High St. under a new company, Fresh Start Catering.

“The council will be scrutinizing those applications,” said Town Manager Mark Green. “Sanford in a very family-oriented community, and we don’t think having that sort of activity meets the standards of our community.”

Green said several local groups are scheduled to hold events at the banquet hall in the near future, including fundraisers for homeless shelters and pancreatic cancer research, and organizers are worried they’ll be left out in the cold.

James Colley informed town officials late Tuesday that he had notified the operator of the swingers group that the sex parties “will no longer take place at Mousam View Place,” according to an email he sent to Sheesley.

“It was never our intent to violate any codes or embarrass this community, the building owner or ourselves,” Colley wrote to Sheesley.

News of the sex parties titillated townspeople, especially residents of East Side, an older, mostly residential neighborhood of woodframe single-family houses and apartment buildings once occupied by workers in the town’s shuttered factories.

“I didn’t even know it was going on,” said Dezza Tomasini, who lives near the hall. “It’s kind of unnerving when something like that happens right in your neighborhood, especially when you have kids. Not knowing it’s going on, what if you walked in on it? Consensual or not, it’s still prostitution if you’re paying to be there. It gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.”

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