Strapped for cash: Harpswell explores installing an ATM
HARPSWELL — The town does not have an automatic teller machine, but the Harpswell Business Association is hoping that will change.
Town staff said they will look into the viability of installing an ATM after HBA requested a machine at Town Hall on Mountain Road.
Gail Kass, who does marketing for HBA and co-owns Ash Cove Pottery, said HBA's executive board made the request after hearing a "really strong demand" from business and non-business members.
"There are a lot of small businesses and not many take credit cards," Kass said. "There is a need for it, and if people have cash in their pocket, they are more likely to spend it."
Kass said there likely wouldn't be any costs to the town besides providing electricity and a network connection. She said the ATM would be provided by a local bank and would provide the town a small slice of revenue for every transaction made.
The closest ATMs are near Bowdoin College and at Cook's Corner in Brunswick. Each one can require a round trip drive of approximately 30 minutes from Harpswell's southernmost areas.
Selectmen on May 9 expressed concerns over making an immediate decision to move forward on the ATM request, so they asked staff to do some research on the pros and cons.
"I'm not expecting this to be on the next agenda," Chairwoman Elinor Multer said. "The staff needs time to look into this."
Town Administrator Kristi Eiane on Monday said the town's research will include looking at the liability costs, whether the machine should be indoors and outdoors, the costs of electricity and a network connection, along with other considerations.
Eiane said she does not know when the town will present its findings to the Board of Selectmen.
"We're going to check into how this would work," she said.
HBA's request echoes a recommendation found in an economic development report for the town, which was prepared earlier this year by consultants at Portland-based Planning Decisions.
Kass, who was part of the economic development committee that helped shape the report, said she had joined the committee because she wanted to see more amenities in Harpswell that would help the local tourism industry.
An ATM is at the top of the list, she said, because for her and other local business owners, a customer without cash can mean a lost sale.
"Absolutely. People come with their credit cards expecting to make purchases," Kass said. "They're expecting to purchase anything with credit cards."
Kass said her pottery business hasn't invested in a credit card machine, because she and her business partner value the "tactile connection" of a cash transaction.
"We bake stuff in an oven. It's a crazy way to make a living," Kass said. "We feel the connection between us and the purchases, that's a tactile connection. They put their cash in our hand, and that's a connection."