HARPSWELL — Alison Hawkes, 35, and Rick Daniel, 45, are vying to be the newest – and youngest – member of the Board of Selectmen.
Both candidates said they are committed to education in the town and have children who are enrolled in, or have gone through, town schools. But they disagreed on whether they would like the town to remain part of School Administrative District 75.
“At this time I’m not interested in any withdrawal from SAD 75,” Hawkes said, “especially after a vote to consolidate (Harpswell’s) two schools and begin such a transition year for our kids.”
Hawkes said she is concerned that the motivation behind initiating the withdrawal process was to send less of Harpswell taxpayer’s money to the school district, not to improve the education of Harpswell children.
“I already know the budget and I know what our kids are getting and, as a parent, I’m happy with the education our kids are getting,” she said.
She said changing the amount the town sends to SAD 75 is an issue to be taken up with the Department of Education, not the School Board. “You don’t mess up a whole education system over something we don’t have control over,” she said.
Unlike Hawkes, Daniel said he supports withdrawing from the school district, and signed the petition that would encourage the town to begin the that process.
He said the town’s contribution to SAD 75 is a huge percentage of its budget, and “it’s worth looking into for that reason, we should know what we’re paying and what we’re getting relative to other towns.”
Daniel said he’s not dissatisfied with the quality of education that his two daughters, who attend Mt. Ararat Middle School and High School, have received. However he said the town should at least look into the possibility of withdrawing because “we need to be looking at what we’re paying, just to be doing the job for tax payers and residents of the town.”
The candidates said they both support the campaign to move the Brunswick-Harpswell boundary back to what many Harpswell residents say is the historic town line.
Daniel said he hoped that Brunswick and Harpswell could work together to come up with a compromise that would satisfy both parties.
“I certainly do feel for Brunswick in that they have been working for those last 14 years and have been caring for (the clam flats),” he said of the conservation work Brunswick shellfishermen have been doing in the disputed mud flats. He said he supports Harpswell’s recent proposal to let Brunswick control the clam flats if the boundary is changed.
Hawkes is hopeful the towns could work with one another.
“That line is historical to Harpswell’s history… and that’s important to me,” she said. “I am 100 percent behind the Carrying Place Assembly,” she said of the group of Harpswell citizens spearheading the boundary change.
Candidates were also asked how much the town should pay to secure public access to Cedar Beach. The current beach owners, Charles and Sally Abrahamson, posted signs last summer closing the beach to the public, but have said they would sell the town a right-of-way for $950,000.
Hawkes said the asking price is too high.
“We have to be more responsible with taxpayers’ money than over-paying for something to use for public access,” she said. She would not support the use of eminent domain to acquire the property, either, and said the town should move on from the issue.
“You offer a piece of property at a price and if someone says no, you move on,” Hawkes said.
Daniel said he is still unsure about spending that much money to secure access to the beach. He said people have been using the beach for generations, and “it would be a great loss to the community. But I’m still torn on that amount, it’s a lot.”
Like Hawkes, Daniel disagreed with using eminent domain. “It’s a last resort,” he said.”The circumstances would have to be extraordinary to do so.”
Both Hawkes and Daniel cited a decline in volunteerism as a problem for the town.
Hawkes said if every resident volunteered just one hour a year, “what a significant difference that would make.” Daniel, who is a volunteer emergency medical technician, said he is specifically concerned about a decline in volunteer firefighters, EMTs and rescue drivers, and is hoping to create incentives to entice more people to join.
He suggested providing health insurance for volunteers, a tax break or a discount at local merchants as three possibilities. “If something doesn’t happen to bring in volunteers,” he said, “we will need to go to a municipal form of fire and rescue and bring a great expense to the town.”
Hawkes said another concern of hers is attracting young families to Harpswell. She said the loss of West Harpswell School made her realize how few children are in the town, and she is concerned for the town’s future.
“Who’s going to grow our town?” she asked. “I don’t want this to be a retirement community.”
Neither Hawkes nor Daniel were born in Harpswell, but they have lived there for 17 and 24 years, respectively. Both run businesses with their spouses: Hawkes manages her husband, Gary’s, lobster company, and makes and sells mats out of recycled float ropes; Daniel and his wife, Signe, co-own Daniel Property Services, a property management company.
In addition to being a volunteer EMT, Daniel served on the Pipeline Easement Advisory Committee and was a board member and chairman of the local scouts association.
Hawkes is on the Budget Advisory Committee, co-chairs the Parent Teacher Organization and helps run Helping Hearts, an organization that raises money for Harpswell residents by selling pins and other crafts.
The election to replace Selectman Mark Wallace, who is not seeking re-election, will be by secret ballot from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the annual Town Meeting on March 12 at Harpswell Islands School.
Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org