Hermon High School hosted Bangor High School for a 7-on-7 touch football match in October 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Hermon will ask voters to approve funding for an eight-lane track and upgrades to the athletic field for a second time in November after bids for the work earlier this year came in much higher than expected and the deadline to issue a previously approved bond expired.

The ballot will ask two questions — whether voters will authorize borrowing up to $2.7 million to fund the track and upgrades to Pottle Field at Hermon High School, and up to $1.2 million to pay for artificial turf to replace the grass.

Voters also will be asked to authorize using $400,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds the town has received from the federal government, $295,000 from the Hermon Elementary School Recreation Reserve Account and $300,000 from the School Maintenance and Reserve Account for construction of the track and the field renovations.

The new track would be built on unused land next to the tennis courts at Hermon High School. The town also would repair and install drainage and a well at Pottle Field, where Hermon High athletes play soccer and football. The work would also include adding a storage building and bleachers and renovating the concessions stand.

In June 2021, voters overwhelmingly approved borrowing $2.4 million for the project, but a year later, the bids came in nearly 30 percent higher than budgeted, so the project was put on hold. The deadline for issuing the bond to fund the work has also passed.

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The high quotes for construction work in Hermon are part of a nationwide trend of higher price tags on construction projects. In the Bangor area, those higher costs have also complicated plans to replace a 70-year-old bridge in Old Town and kick off $110 million in upgrades to the University of Maine’s athletic facilities

The Hermon Town Council on Thursday unanimously approved putting the questions on the Nov. 8 ballot. The deadline for finalizing ballots was Friday.

If the questions pass, the council would not borrow the full amount authorized by voters if the town can find other funding, Council Chair Steven Thomas said.

“If we can do it for a lower price, that will be our goal,” he said.

But if the town borrows the full amount, the property tax rate in Hermon, one of the lowest in the Bangor area, could increase, Interim Town Manager Joshua Berry said at a Thursday night meeting.

The current tax rate is $11.99 per $100,000 assessed valuation, the same rate set in 2021.

If both questions pass and the town borrows the entire amount authorized for the renovation and the artificial turf, the tax rate would go up to $12.63 per $100,000 in assessed property value, according to Berry. If just the renovations to Pottle Field are approved, taxes would increase to $12.41 per assessed valuation.

“That would be about $120 per year on a house assessed at $300,000, which would be about $10 a month,” he said.

The school committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Hermon High School to discuss whether to use some of its surplus to help pay for the project. The amount the town would need to borrow would be reduced if the committee agrees to contribute more funds.

Everett Buzzell, a candidate in a special November election to fill a council vacancy, opposed putting the questions on the ballot. He said the town had more important things to spend money on, such as public safety.

“This is just a waste of money at this time,” he said. “Right now, sports is not the most important thing in this town. The safety of its residents is.”

Buzzell also said that the rising price of food, gas and utilities would make it difficult for those on fixed incomes to pay higher property taxes.

“This is not the time for this to go on the ballot. We need to step back and think about the poor people in this town,” he said.

Danielle Haggerty, who also is running for the council seat, said voters need to approve the project this fall so work on Pottle Field can begin.

“We need to pull the trigger on this or work is not going to start this year,” she said.

The goal is for the work to be completed by the 2023 fall sports season.