The main entrance to the Dover-Foxcroft Municipal Building, pictured Tuesday. Credit: Valerie Royzman / BDN

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — After a Dover-Foxcroft Select Board member questioned the local theater’s decision to require COVID-19 vaccinations for children participating in auditions for a spring production, a larger conversation unfolded about policies related to town-owned property.

Barry Hutchins, the newest member, asked during a Select Board meeting Monday if the town has a policy that oversees town-owned buildings to ensure that no inequitable policies against residents, including children, are taking place in those facilities.

His question was in reference to the Center Theatre’s recent announcement to hold auditions, which will require that children be vaccinated, at Central Hall Commons on March 4 and 5.

Several days ago, Hutchins wrote on the Dover-Foxcroft Area Hub Facebook page that because the town owns the Central Hall Commons building, it should be involved in whether the space can be used for auditions with such a policy. Select Board members moved into a conversation that grew tense at times and could lead them to review policies that have been in place for a number of years — although most of the board said groups that rent space get to make their own rules.

The Center Theatre, which is organizing a spring production of Disney’s “Moana Jr.,” is requiring that cast members be vaccinated against COVID-19 given high case counts in the community. The theater made exceptions to the requirement for its show in December and almost had to cancel, Executive Director Patrick Myers said.

“I don’t go on Facebook, but I certainly have heard what you’ve stirred up,” member Gail D’Agostino said about Hutchins’ post, where he was supportive of the theater and its productions, but not supportive of the policy. “I think it’s unfortunate that you are asking the question tonight, after you’ve made a public statement on Facebook as if you knew the answer.”

The town has a standard policy that does not allow discrimination against people based on their age, gender, disability and other factors, Town Manager Jack Clukey said. There is not a policy specifically like Hutchins described because there is a landlord-tenant relationship between the town and organizations like Central Hall, he said.

Central Hall Commons is its own organization and creates its own policies, D’Agostino said. The town also rents the gymnasium at the town office, and the board is not in a position to examine every group’s actions and policies, Vice Chairperson Cindy Freeman Cyr said.

“It’s not as though I’m trying to say Central Hall Commons’ policy is flawed because they are renting a single spot in that building,” Hutchins said. “My problem with this relationship, fundamentally, is that we are giving control to another entity that controls the building on our behalf.”

Chairman Elwood Edgerly and D’Agostino disagreed. The organizations are controlling their programming, like what the masking policy looks like, and they determine the safest way to do that, she said.

Hutchins said his Facebook post was his personal opinion as a Dover-Foxcroft resident, not as a Select Board member.

Members have a responsibility to use good judgment about what and how they communicate, and how it’s interpreted, Freeman Cyr said.

“I’ve written so many letters to the editor in my head, and then I think, there’s no way you can send that in,” she said. “There’s no way to deidentify the fact that you’re a member of this board. We have to be super careful about how we use the bully pulpit, which I think you’re using.”

A memorandum of understanding between the town and Central Hall Commons was written in 2015 or so, and now might be a good time to review it, D’Agostino said.

Select Board members agreed to Chairman Edgerly’s suggestion to schedule an administrative committee meeting to see if any of the town’s property-related policies need to be revisited.

Before the board closed open session and moved to the next agenda item, Hutchins said he wanted to address one of Freeman Cyr’s comments.

“We’re moving on,” Edgerly said.