By Gloria Austin
As the talk of whether to replace the hockey boards at Millar Civic Center has been discussed, it was unclear how the Houlton Town Council wanted to proceed in regard to the arena.
During Monday night’s meeting, Chairman Paul Cleary told those in attendance that the town has $75,000 saved toward used hockey boards, with a rough estimate of $142,000 as a total cost for the project.
“That leaves us about $67,000 to come up with,” he said.
Since May 10, Cleary and other councilors have fielded numerous questions and concerns surrounding the validity of the civic center.
“This issue has fired up the masses in town,” Cleary said. “As phone calls, e-mails and Facebook started, people have contacted me — business owners and private citizens — and basically, we have raised between $35,000 and $40,000 out of the $67,000 needed.”
Cleary spoke with two individuals, who would give their full support, one being John Millar’s son, Jamie, who relayed that he and the family are willing to contact Houlton alumni and see if they would be interested in helping pay for the boards.
“I told him we would try to do a local effort, but before we move forward with doing this, the question has been, ‘What is council going to do with the civic center?’ I think this is a no brainer. We need to move forward and with that, give Haley [Nickerson] and Marie [Carmichael] the opportunity to market and promote the civic center to its fullest potential.”
Councilor John White, who had opposed the bond issue for the hockey boards explained he voted the way he did because the town would be borrowing money to sit on, which made no sense to him.
“Through Facebook this has happened,” he said. “I am 100 percent behind it. The Facebook [page] has 400 people and look what has happened already. Once we get the word out, it’s going to happen. Just go for it.”
This winter, according to Cleary, the civic center had one of its best years revenue-wise.
“To put ice outside or close it [civic center] that has never been an option in my opinion,” he said. Activities and places like the civic center and recreation department are “part of why you live, stay and move to Houlton,” Cleary added. “We offer a lot of things in a community our size.”
The council approved Cleary and Councilor Dan Peabody to move ahead with fundraising and to report back to council on progress made.
Councilor White also recommended that the civic center advisory board be reinstated.
“Let’s see what ideas can be generated,” he said.