BELGRADE — Judy Bielecki said she moved to Belgrade because of its excellent schools, not the recreation programs offered at the Belgrade Center For All Seasons.

She opposes using public money to support the recreation center.

Bieleck was among a handful of people who attended Tuesday night’s public hearing to discuss referendum questions on the March 16 ballot, which includes four questions seeking money for the center.

The questions include $100,000 to fix the roof; $150,000 to buy adjacent land and buildings to gain a right of way to Great Pond; $59,907 to suport the operating budget, refinish the floor, buy a new sign and install new electrical outlets; and $139,302 for programs and events.

“I don’t believe funding recreation is the responsibility of the town,” Bielecki said. “I don’t think we should be spending a quarter of a million dollars every year, which is close to the same amount spent on public safety.

“We just keep having to throw more money at it.”

When the town first considered building the Community Center For All Seasons, Bielecki said, residents were told the center would pay for itself. The town broke ground for the center in April 2000.

Resident Jack Sutton said the center is a benefit to the community.

“The rec center is supported by energetic, younger people in town,” Sutton said. “It’s become a focal point. I believe it’s an attraction to a lot of people. I hear negative comments at meetings like this, but hear complimentary things from people outside who use it.”

Board of Selectpersons member Melanie Jewell noted that the center offers both children and adult programs, including basketball and Zumba classes.

“When I came to town, the rec center had just opened up and I went there with my toddler,” Jewell said. “It was a place to congregate, so there is value there.”

Linda Bacon, chairwoman of the Belgrade Board of Parks and Recreation, said explaining the recreation programming budget is challenging. Unlike the majority of municipal programs, Belgrade’s recreation program also generates income. Bacon said state law prevents the board from disclosing the center’s income in the referendum article residents will vote on.

Instead, board members have included the explanation of the center’s revenue in this year’s town report.

In 2011, the center’s recreation budget was $101,770, but the actual cost of delivering programing was $24,409.

Bacon said the center’s revenue was $77,361 in 2011.

“The programing budget is operating on revenue, not being paid for by taxpayers,” she said, “so we’re taking in money as well. The programing aspects will be covered by people who use it.”

Penny Morrell said she opposed the recreation building when she joined the Board of Selectpersons.

“The cost of that building is horrendous,” Morrell said. “Just to fix the roof is $100,000. I’m angry.”

Jewell said the center was not built right and “corners were cut in the interest of saving money.”

“It didn’t save money, because we’re dealing with it (roof problems) now,” she said.

Board of Selectpersons member Ernie Rice said he originally opposed public funding for the center, but now he has mixed feelings.

“The building is used by the whole community, including nonprofits and businesses,” Rice said. “I believe what that building provides is an asset to the community. I pay less than 50 cents a week (in my taxes) to access the building if I want to use it.”

Marty Taylor, who moved to town six years ago, is opposed to buying the adjacent waterfront property owned by the Dalton family to acquire a 25-foot right of way to Great Pond.

“I think it’s a matter of priority,” Taylor said. “You buy the place next door, but don’t we need a firetruck? Has the salt shed been paid for yet? Everybody has to cut their budgets at home, but it seems like this town spends money like water. I don’t get it. Our priorities are all screwed up.”

The property includes a house and two apartments, which town officials said the town could rent and eventually sell.

“If someone else buys it, it could raise havoc,” said Town Manager Gregory Gill. “The 25-foot right of way is huge. To me, this is a must. If somebody comes in, they could open a boat rental business and people could be treading up and down that all day.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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