Harpswell school sale remains on track for April 15

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HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectmen decided unanimously Monday to allow the sale of the West Harpswell School to close on April 15, and not try to reopen negotiations on a section of the sale agreement.

At issue was a specific clause in the agreement with the Harpswell Coastal Academy charter school, which was approved by Town Meeting on March 14.

The agreement states that in the event HCA wishes to sell the property, the town and HCA “shall attempt, in good faith, to negotiate a mutually acceptable Purchase Price for the Premises.”

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said that after the sale agreement was approved, some members of the public expressed concern that a “good-faith” process is not strong enough to ensure that the town could buy back the property at a fair price if HCA leaves.

At Monday’s workshop, selectmen were concerned that any re-opening of negotiations could jeopardize the April 15 closing.  

Selectman Kevin Johnson said the process has already gone on long enough, and that “we should close April 15 and be over it.”

Chairman Richard Daniel agreed with Johnson. “Delaying is not an option,” he said.

But Scott Sheffer, of West Harpswell, urged the board to immediately re-open negotiations. “Why not create a scenario … that says Harpswell has the first right of refusal to buy back?,” he said.

Town Attorney Amy Tchao said that even after the sale closes, the parties can still renegotiate the right-to-repurchase agreement, as long as both agree in writing. That language would then have to be ratified by Town Meeting.

“If we can negotiate a slightly more favorable repurchase agreement, then there’s nothing to lose,” Selectman Elinor Multer said. “They’d still own the building.”

The selectmen agreed to keep the agreement unchanged, and then see if HCA would want to renegotiate after April 15.

“We’re not going anywhere,” John D’Anieri, HCA head of school, said during the meeting.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.