Policy sets hurdle for potential users of Harpswell school

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HARPSWELL — West Harpswell School will remain unused this winter unless community groups can show they’ll occupy 30 percent of the building on a regular basis.

That threshold is important because it would allow the town to replace it’s insurance policy on the vacant building, which costs $13,000, with a policy that would cost less than $2,000 a year.

At its Oct. 27  meeting, the Board of Selectmen authorized town staff to draft an application form to request use of the school. Users would have to be affiliated with a nonprofit or a for-profit entity that would be responsible for any incurred costs or liabilities.

Resident Donna Frisoli, who is trying to organize a group to create a temporary library in the school, said it’s been challenging to find an organization willing to take responsibility for the Village Library, as the project is called.

Still, she is hopeful that her group of library fans and parents who home-school their children will be able to use the space throughout the winter for educational events, Internet access and community dinners.

But Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said unless the town receives enough applicants to receive the reduce insurance rate, it’s unlikely the space will be used at all.

That’s because the $25,000 that Harpswell voters allocated to maintain the school until March 2012 is nearly exhausted, thanks to unexpected fuel expenses and boiler repairs. Eiane said the budget anticipated minimal use of the school over the winter, and did not account for additional heat and electricity expenses that would come with using the school more frequently – unless the town can spend less on insurance.

She encouraged community members to submit their requests to use the school, with the understanding that they may not be granted.

“We’re going to be able to take applications, but I don’t know if there’s going to be any final commitment until there’s a sense that we have enough entities” to occupy 30 percent of the building on a regular basis, Eiane said.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.