HOULTON, Maine — Should the town of Houlton invest money in its aging recreation building or explore building an entirely new one?

That was the question on the minds of Houlton Town Councilors last week after hearing a presentation from the town’s recreation director, Marie Carmichael, on her concerns about the building’s condition.

The 63-year-old building is in dire need of multiple repairs, caused by water leaks and a general lack of proper maintenance upkeep issues over the years.

“For the last few years, we have had some water seepage in our walls as you enter into the building,” Carmichael said.

That water leakage has created cracks in the cement blocks, which may affect the building’s structural integrity. The presentation also highlighted other issues such as rotting window sills, asbestos on the exterior siding, single-pane glass windows throughout the facility and inadequate bathrooms to meet current codes.

Peter Chase of Buildings Etc. agreed to take a look at the building and provided a detailed report of the issues affecting the building. He estimated the total costs for the repairs at $251,450.

His biggest concern, though, was the cracked cement wall.

“That block wall is a supporting wall for the roof structure,” Chase said. “The blocks do not look like they are reinforced, which you would normally expect for a load-bearing wall. It is something that needs to be addressed sooner than later.”

Chase stated that in his opinion the entire block wall that is deteriorating should be removed and a new foundation wall created. Chase added that before any money is invested in the building, a structural engineer should be brought in to determine the severity of the situation.

“It would make an awful lot of sense to get a structural engineer to come look at it first,” he said. “That would then tell us if we should change to a steel column with rafters or whether we should replace the block wall.”

He added that the building’s foundation appeared to be in good shape.

Council Chairman Wade Hanson said the large number of repairs raised the issue of whether the town should invest a considerable amount of money in repairs or pursue other options. Councilor John White also expressed concerns about putting a large amount of money into a 63-year-old building.

“It seems like a lot of money to sink into an outdated building,” he said. “I know it’s a big number for a new building and I don’t know how we could ever do it, but we need a new building.”

Other councilors did not share that opinion.

“Regardless of how we decide to go, we have to sink some money into that building to bring it back,” Councilor Phil Cloney said.

Carmichael said about seven years ago, the town explored the idea of creating a new recreation building, but at that time, the committee decided against such a pursuit due to the high cost.

Presque Isle is in the process of raising funds for a new recreation center. That project is anticipated to cost $5.3 million for a new 30,475 square foot facility. The Gentle Memorial Building, in comparison, is 19,000 square feet.

Based on a minimum cost of $175 per square foot, Carmichael said a new building would be at least $3.3 million for Houlton.

The need for renovations at the Gentle Memorial Building has been brought to the attention of previous town managers, Carmichael said. However, previous managers did not bring the matter to the town council.

The concept of having a recreation building first came about in 1930 when Edna B. Gentle made and signed her last will and testament. In that will, she requested that a recreation building be built in memory of her father, George S. Gentle. Edna Gentle died in January 1935 when the Mohawk Steamship collided with a freighter and sank off the coast of New Jersey.

The Gentle Memorial Building was built in 1952 and dedicated to George S. Gentle. The building has been used for every type of recreational activity imaginable over the past 63 years.

By a consensus vote, the council agreed a structural architect should look at the building first before any repairs are attempted. Results of that report will be presented to the board at a future date.