Governance in New England has deep roots in local communities. Some places in the United States have “local” government at what we know as the county level. Maine communities have always been proud—and protective—of the way they govern themselves. And it is the most direct way to be involved in how your government works. You elect Select Board members to oversee the town’s administration, but you, the voter, get to vote at the annual town meeting on items that provide direction to the Select Board. Plus you get to vote on the annual budget. At the county level in Maine you elect commissioners to handle the regular affairs, and elect budget committee members to approve the annual budget. And we all know how the State and Federal government work.
Local communities also have their own town office—not town hall—where you get to conduct official business, and sometimes catch up on local news. Only the larger municipalities in Maine are the places that have a city hall.
Enough of the civics lesson—this is supposed to be a history article!
The current town office was built in 1986-1987 on the site of the old St. George High School. In July 1987 operations moved from the “old” town office into its new home. The “old” town office was once a one-room school house—what is now the School House Museum—that transformed into a town office in the 1930s-1940s. The building was used mostly by the Board of Selectmen to conduct their business, as the town clerk and tax collector did business out of their homes. This manner in which you got your fishing and marriage licenses, and paid your property taxes, continued until 1968 when the St. George adopted the Town Manager form of government and all town business was moved into the one building on School Street.
The School Street site changed again in 2003, the year St. George turned 200 years old. The old cement block fire station had seen its day, and a new fire station was built, attached to the “new” town office. This new fire station was designed with the input from the townspeople to “don’t just replace the fire station, look down the road 40-50 years.” With this in mind, the top floor of the fire station was built with a large meeting room and supporting kitchen big enough for community suppers. Some people may think this is the “town hall” but it is actually the Fire Station Meeting Room. Its primary purpose is to provide space for the fire and ambulance crews for meeting, training and as a command center during emergency situations. Its secondary use is for large meetings, voting and annual town meeting. It also serves as a monthly meeting place for seniors to have lunch and socialize.
—John Falla (Falla is St. George’s former Town Manager.)