Harpswell OKs beach access funds, nearly $4.3M budget
HARPSWELL — Town Meeting approved a $4.26 million municipal budget, funds to acquire access to Robinhood Beach and funds to build a garage for emergency medical services, among other warrant articles on March 9.
Voters also elected Rick Daniel to the Board of Selectmen and approved a $124,000 appropriation for Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick.
The issue of opening access to Robinhood Beach (sometimes referred to as Cedar Beach) was one of the more expensive articles approved Saturday. The town will now be able to issue up to $220,000 in bonds to secure public access to the beach.
However, the borrowing is contingent on the success of a lawsuit between a group called Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters and property owners who are blocking access to the beach.
"First of all, we're thrilled. It was incredibly gratifying to see the amount of support we had and how broad-based it was," Michael Helfgott, president of CB/CIS, said Tuesday. "People, really I believe, were rallying to the issue to put a stop to the decreasing access to our beaches and our water, because that was really the underlying issue."
Helfgot said his group has a mediation date with the defendants, Charles and Sally Abrahamson, this April.
"It just remains to be seen how that's going to go," Helfgott said. "We want to be realistic going into it, but we're also hopeful."
The passage of Article 12 also will allow the town to accept grants and gifts for Robinhood Beach, though their possible use will be discussed in subsequent meetings with CB/CIS, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said.
For the town's municipal budget, Eiane said the $4.26 million in appropriations approved Saturday are down by 2.2 percent from the previous budget. She attributed the decline to a few warrant articles that were amended or defeated.
The largest eliminated costs was $40,000 that would have been used to remove an old, unused water tank at Mitchell Field.
Eiane said a 2012 report by engineering firm DeLuca-Hoffman indicated the costs to repair the tank could amount to $350,000 and that there are more cost-effective ways of providing water in the area.
But opponents of the plan cited the water tank as a navigational aid for traveling the area and suggested it could potentially serve as a cell phone tower. Eiane said currently there is no formal interest for such a project.
Another warrant article passed Saturday helped removed a roadblock for possible tenants of the former West Harpswell School.
The passage of Article 35 will allow the Board of Selectmen to enter multi-year lease agreements with tenants for the former West Harpswell School.
Representatives of Harpswell Coastal Academy, a charter school opening this fall, expressed interest in using the building last year, but considered a one-year lease unacceptable.
"We see (Article 35) as a step in the right direction. and we're happy that it went through," said Joe Grady, president of HCA. He said the school will continue negotiations with the town to see if the building will be an option in the future.
Voters also passed Article 42, which will appropriate $76,000 in addition to the $74,000 raised by the town last year for site development, planning and construction of a garage and office space for emergency medical services.
Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said the project's current budget is $150,000 and expects the plan to go to the Planning Board in April.
The EMS garage was a stipulation of a service agreement that began between the town and Mid Coast Hospital last year.
Other articles passed by Town Meeting include amendments to shellfish, waterfront, shoreland zoning and solid waste ordinances; a pay increase for the road commissioner; and various town services.