In this Dec. 3, 2021, file photo, the Orono town sign outside the town offices. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Orono owns three buildings in need of some work, but they don’t serve any specific purposes for the town.

So Orono’s leaders want to know what residents need in terms of space before they decide whether to sink money into upgrading the structures.

The town on Monday said it’s looking for an outside firm to help identify the community’s long-term needs for gathering and leisure space so it can decide what to do with those buildings, and whether it’s worth spending money on renovations.

A request for qualifications document the town published outlines what it has in mind.

Orono identified the Keith Anderson Community House on Bennoch Road, the Old Fire Station on North Main Avenue and the former public works facility on Penobscot Street as three buildings the town owns and has used, but that don’t serve a specific purpose for the town of more than 11,000 residents.

“Unlike a public safety building where we know exactly what the purpose is and what needs to happen there,” Town Manager Sophie Wilson said, “the spaces that are outlined in the RFQ really don’t have defined uses.”

The Keith Anderson Community House, for example, has been used as a performing arts space, Wilson said. But with the construction of a new performing arts space at the Orono Middle-High School building nearing completion, the town may no longer need the other space for that purpose.

“The question now becomes, what really are the future needs of the community?” Wilson said. “Given finite resources, I think what the Town Council is looking for is to walk us through a process of what are reasonable needs that the town government should be facilitating.”

The three buildings that don’t have specific uses all need a significant amount of work that would come at a substantial cost to the town, Wilson said. The firm the town selects would collect input from the town to develop a specific plan for meeting the community’s needs without wasting town funds, Wilson said.

“I think it is a great opportunity for us to ensure that we don’t put a $1.2 million Band-Aid on the Keith Anderson House only to figure out that it’s not what we need,” she said.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...