Ellen Karlberg, left, speaks during an interview Oct. 22, 2019, at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley in Gardiner. Emma Roberts, center, and Juliana Montell listen. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

GARDINER — When the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley made a pitch for city support of its new building a month ago, city councilors said they supported the organization but wanted to consider their options.

In delaying consideration on Feb. 17 of the club’s request for $500,000 to help meet its goal of raising $10 million, city councilors asked to see how they could offer their support without raising property taxes to do so.

“I certainly support trying to help the Boys & Girls Club,” At-large City Councilor Tim Cusick said at the mid-February meeting. “It’s going to be a great facility, and it’s a great program for the kids of Gardiner.”

But, he said, without knowing how the city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year stands in the middle of a pandemic and with spending anticipated on repairs to the city’s own buildings, $500,000 is a lot of money commit.

“We committed $150,000 to Johnson Hall,” Cusick said, pointing out the city’s contribution to help pay for renovations to the historic opera house on Water Street. “I am not shooting the money down, but it’s a lot of money when we don’t know where we are with the budget numbers.”

At that point, former City Manager Christine Landes said work had started on the annual spending plan and that several scenarios could be developed.

When the City Council meets Wednesday, members will have the chance to review four options to support the project — using the city’s fund balance; using tax increment financing funds; using a combination of fund balance and TIF funds over a period of years; and budgeting an annual contribution with a combination of TIF and general funds with a one-time contribution from fund balance.

In 2019, club officials announced their plans to replace the former Pray Street School, which the Gardiner club has called home for about two decades, with a new $10 million facility. The new property would incorporate up-to-date building and safety standards and allow the club to expand is services.

At that point, fundraising was scheduled to be completed in early 2020, and the project was expected to break ground in April. But the COVID-19 pandemic declared in March called a halt to the fundraising and delayed the start of construction.

This rendering shows a view of the planned new facility of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley in Gardiner. Image courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley

Club officials kicked off fundraising again last fall with some corporate gifts and a challenge to match a $1 million anonymous gift by Dec. 31.

At the mid-February meeting, supporters of the Boys & Girls Clubs, gave statements of support for the programs it offers, including early child care, before- and after-school care for children in the Gardiner-area school district, and meals for senior citizens in the community.

“It’s 25 years’ worth of hard work from thousands of people to bring this together from a little, teeny program of six kids and me and a hope that we could pull it together,” Ingrid Stanchfield, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley, said. “I am proud to sit here tonight and see people from all walks of life advocating for our community, our kids, our families and our seniors.”

Stanchfield said at that point, the Boys and Girls Clubs had raised $8.7 million in private gifts for the project.

“This facility is the city of Gardiner’s community center and recreation program,” she said, “and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish by working together.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, city officials will also consider granting a victualer’s license to the Gardiner Elks Club, renewing a liquor license for the Gardiner Sportsmen’s Club and discussing the condition of 235 Water St., one of the buildings damaged in the 2015 downtown fire that has been deteriorating since then.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City Council meets virtually on Zoom and simulcasts its meetings on Facebook Live. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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