Community Sailing Center dedicated to Tony Pomerleau

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington's Community Sailing Center is celebrating some big new digs, but a recent revelation caused a scare for the longtime organization.

"Tony, you set an example for all of us." said Gov. Phill Scott, R-Vermont, at a dedication ceremony Friday for the new sailing center in honor of Tony Pomerleau.

"Wednesday night he woke up a little after 11 p.m. and waited till 12:01 p.m. cause he wanted to be sure that he made his 100th birthday," said Ernie Pomerleau, Tony's son.

State and local leaders honored real estate mogul and philanthropist Tony Pomerleau, his 100th birthday, and the newest building to bear his name. The Pomerleau Community Waterfront Campus is almost set to open.

"Mr. P., you're the ultimate dream-maker. Your gift of a million dollars gave us the energy and momentum to move forward," said the center's Karen Marshall.

Pomerleau says he kicked off the fundraising for the $6-million project last year to help the sailing center serve more people, especially kids.

"I never owned a boat," Pomerleau said. The self-made millionaire wants kids to get access to what he couldn't when he was growing up in Newport. "I remember during depression time -- I remember twice I borrowed a rowboat to go on Lake Memphremagog."

"They've impacted a huge number of kids," said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

The Community Sailing Center helps about 6,000 people a year learn to sail and get out on a boat. They expect that to jump to 10,000 people in the next two years.

"This is truly a way that many Burlingtonians -- especially our kids -- learn about the lake," Mayor Weinberger said.

The new building offers larger, more flexible spaces for classes, and boat storage.

But the center suddenly has a big bill to pay. Planners were relying on tax credits to cover $1.7 million of the project. They thought the new building fell within an incentive zone on the waterfront. "It runs down the middle of the skate park," said the center's Owen Milne.

But it turns out the new building is 150-feet outside the zone. Milne calls it an unfortunate rounding error in the map system. "It wasn't a, 'Oh no, we're going to be in debt.' Oh no -- quite literally -- we're going to do what we planned to do in the first point, which is raise the money that we need," Milne said.

He says he's confident that $1.7 million will be raised. Since the center started fundraising again earlier this month, more than $300,000 in donations have come in.