UPDATE: Mayor Gleason has determined that the original vote to demolish the arts center will stand. He was informed that the rules in the city charter supersede Robert’s Rules of Order. That means a simple majority of the council is needed to suspend the rules of their meetings, not a two-thirds majority.
The council will discuss the demolition of Great Falls Arts Center at its workshop at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in Auburn Hall. But it is not scheduled to take another vote at its regular meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
Auburn Mayor Dick Gleason stated Tuesday that the city council’s vote to demolish the Great Falls Performing Arts Center was invalid. A new vote has been scheduled for the council’s meeting on Monday.
The Auburn City Councilors voted 4-3 on November 15 on a motion to suspend their rules, which would allow them to consider an item that was not on the agenda. Councilors then voted 4-3 to demolish the former school building in June 2011. Councilors Mike Farrell, Dan Herrick, Ray Berube and Belinda Gerry voted in favor of demolition.
The vote sparked outrage among many residents and supporters of Community Little Theatre, which is based in the building, along with several smaller arts-related tenants. Some claimed that the council’s action came out of nowhere.
But the council has debated the fate of the city-owned building during every budget cycle for well over a decade. The taxpayer-funded operations at the former school building are run at a loss each year. Attempts to turn the building over to the CLT have been unsuccessful. Costs to renovate the building are far too expensive for a private developer.
The councilors who voted for demolition cited numerous safety code violations, expensive upgrades that are needed for the building’s heating and utility systems, enormous costs to rehabilitate the building and annual losses as reasons for tearing it down.
“As you know, I have tried hard to be correct with Robert’s Rules of Order,” Gleason stated. “Upon further study, I have been reminded that motions to suspend the rules require a two-thirds vote (5 out of 7), not a simple majority. As moderator, I allowed it to happen, even though there were only 4 votes cast when 5 were needed.”
Gleason said the city clerk checked with the Maine Municipal Association, which ruled that the council can only go back as far as one meeting to correct procedural errors.
“Because there were only 4 votes to suspend, I will declare that motion to suspend invalid and place the original motion to tear down Great Falls School on the agenda for December 6,” Gleason stated. “This will also give the public time to speak at the meeting.”
The city council will discuss the fate of the Great Falls Performing Arts Center in a workshop at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, December 6 workshop meeting. The council’s vote will come during its regular meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.