April 05, 2020

Official outlines plans for 3-town community center> Hartland hearing elicits suggestions on funding, services, problem solving

HARTLAND — If members of the task force that developed plans for a three-town community center for Hartland, St. Albans and Palmyra thought they had a long road ahead before accomplishing their goal, that view may have been changed Thursday night.

For nearly an hour, St. Albans resident Peter Duncombe of Kennebec Valley Community Action Program outlined the task force’s plan to construct the Irving Tanning Community Center in Hartland, attached to the Hartland Consolidated School. When it came time for questions about the proposal, there was more praise than probing.

Many of the 40 people who attended the public hearing were eager to offer suggestions on how to secure funds for the project, expand the services of a new center and address community problems within the plans.

Thursday’s public hearing was held to get comments on an application that will be filed this week for federal Community Development Block Grant money administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development. If the communities are successful and win the grant, it would supply $250,000 for the estimated $1.2 million project.

For 11 months, the task force of community leaders, educators, business leaders and public-service group leaders studied the need for a day care and after-school care program in Hartland. The idea for an organized day care program came from the town’s largest industry, Irving Tanning Company. A committee formed to study the idea uncovered additional needs, including the need to upgrade and expand the town’s school facilities, something the school district has been unable to accomplish.

As the needs grew, so did the solution.

The proposed community center will serve the needs of the three towns but will be located in Hartland. The center will be financed with seed money from Irving Tanning, local fund raising, in-kind donations, the state grant and a school district bond issue. The task force also wants to build an addition at the Hartland school similar to the new gymnasium and classroom space recently built in Corinna.

The new center would operate similarly to the way the district’s school buildings do now, according to SAD 48 Superintendent Bill Braun. The district operates and maintains the buildings, but the buildings are used extensively by community groups and programs seven days a week. The expanded space for school programs would allow the district to offer preschool programs and additional Head Start opportunities to allow more children to start school ready to learn, he said.

A separate board would control the center’s programs and reflect the needs of the area for day care, after-school care and youth and adult programs.

In the coming months, additional hearings will be held for public participation and education. The SAD 48 board of directors voted to support the project at another meeting Thursday night and reiterated its commitment at the hearing. The addition to the school through CDBG and community funds would solve a dilemma for the district, which has four school construction projects pending in Augusta that are not likely to be funded in this century.

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