The Readfield Fairgrounds property off Church Road. Voters rejected a proposal for new athletic fields there, but town officials are discussing different ideas that are smaller in scale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

READFIELD — Officials are considering an alternative approach to a new community park project that voters rejected during the June election.

The project, as proposed on the ballot, included the construction of a softball field, basketball court, kiosk, concession stand, and trails on the 36-acre municipally-owned Readfield Fairgrounds property off Church Road. It also included a pollinator garden to help preserve the natural habitat.

Residents shot down a question asking if they would be willing to raise up to $500,000 for the project, with 483 no votes and 344 yes votes. They also rejected a question asking if they would bond the $500,000 over 20 years, which would include an additional $138,428 worth of interest, with 341 against the idea, 245 in favor, and 258 residents leaving the space blank.

Parks and Recreation Director Hannah Flannery said at a Monday night board meeting that girls in the community still do need a softball field, and that there’s also a need for an outdoor basketball court.

“If there’s a way that we can fund-raise or find funding to help move this project forward, that would be incredibly awesome,” she said.

The board did not take any action on the matter, but agreed to discuss the topic further during its upcoming Aug. 22 retreat and determine a clearer path forward.


Board member Carol Doorenbos said that the voters’ rejection of the project seemed in large part due to the funding, but also partly because of the land and parking. To address the cost, she suggested setting fundraising goals for individual phases of the project, and moving forward to the next parts as more funding is available.

Doorenbos suggested putting dollar amounts for just the softball field and just the basketball court on the ballot in November to see if there is some public support for those park upgrades.

“And then if it’s voted down, we can look at possibly just fundraising, but I’m a little bit squeamish of saying, ‘Hey you guys voted this down, but we’re going to go ahead with it anyway,'” she said, “but I think those two pieces were the popular parts of the piece and something that’s needed for the kids and community.”

She said an “all-or-nothing” approach, in which voters either have to accept or reject the entire scope of the project, would not be appropriate.

Selectman Steve DeAngelis said he is “more than a little bit squeamish” about putting the project back out to voters, since they recently turned it down.

“I would like to see us just reconsider everything with public input, so that we’re not saying as a select board, ‘This is what we think you should do,'” he said.


DeAngelis suggested talking to people who are worried and nervous about the project and then working to mitigate their concerns while figuring out ways to keep the burden from primarily falling on the taxpayer.

One resident cautioned the board not to revisit an issue too quickly after it was rejected, and said that several years ago a public works item was placed on the ballot in Readfield, defeated, and then brought back on the ballot for the next election for an even larger defeat.

“We had two issues on the ballot that were rejected by voters,” he said. “To bring either one or both back too soon, I think, is dangerous.”

Town Manager Eric Dyer agreed. “I think that’s something that should be driven by the other folks who have a stake in it, and everybody in town, really,” he said.

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