Harpswell, charter school miss deadline for building sale; talks continue

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HARPSWELL — Negotiations for the sale of West Harpswell School to Harpswell Coastal Academy are continuing, more than a week after a deadline to reach a deal.

The Board of Selectmen was expected to review and approve the deal with the charter school at a special meeting Jan. 15, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said. 

Eiane declined to comment further on the negotiations.

“We’re just working things out,” she said. “I think both parties are optimistic that we can reach an agreement that we can publicly disclose and sign.”

Last July, the town and school signed renewed a lease that included a Jan. 15 deadline to reach an agreement to sell the building. HCA, established in 2013, leases the former public school from the town for $40,000 per year, delivered in equal payments over 10 months. 

Under the terms of the lease, the town can now find another buyer for the building, but Eiane said selectmen have no intention of putting the building back on the market.

“We intend to continue working with them on specific language of the purchase and sale agreement,” Eiane said. 

HCA board Chairman Joseph Grady on Wednesday said the two sides were not yet comfortable with the agreement language. 

“We’re working on it,” Grady said. “It was hoped to be done and ready for that meeting, but it didn’t work out that way.”

HCA still intends to make West Harpswell School its permanent home, Grady said. 

According to the town assessor’s office, the building is valued at more than $993,000. The 7.73-acre property has a value of $88,800, for a total value of more than $1.08 million.  

Time is running out to put the agreement in front of voters at the annual Town Meeting in March.

The Town Meeting warrant needs to be posted seven business days before the meeting, so theoretically, selectmen could wait that long to reach an agreement. According to Eiane, that’s unlikely to happen.  

“We don’t like to run up against that deadline obviously,” she said. “We like to give people plenty of notice.”

Usually, warrant articles are finalized by mid-February, in time to be printed in the town’s annual report, but there have been instances when article language is approved by selectmen at a later date, Eiane said.

Grady said he still hopes to have an agreement ready in time for Town Meeting.

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @PeteL_McGuire.

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