HARTLAND, Maine — Hartland is a small, rural town in Somerset County with a single major industry — a century old tannery — in addition to a population of just 870 and an average income of $29,900.
The Pride Tannery, owned for decades by Irving Tanning Co., is a sprawling behemoth in the downtown of Hartland, spanning both sides of Main Street and providing hundreds of jobs.
But now, a handshake agreement with state officials that Hartland selectmen say was never kept, along with a failure to assess enough tax revenue, has helped toss the town into a financial crisis in which it is about $1.2 million in debt.
Compounding the situation is that the town is without its longtime town manager, Peggy Morgan, who is on medical leave for a serious illness. It’s the first time in almost 32 years that Morgan is not at the helm.
Without their manager, the Board of Selectmen has been left to seek its own solutions.
One of the most immediate issues is that SAD 48 is threatening to sue the town for more than $400,000 in school payments the town owes, and town officials are banking on a pair of loans to get them out of the hole.
Selectmen are talking about selling off everything they can get their hands on, including the current town hall, a former school, wood and equipment, as well as laying off three town workers.
Selectman Greg Tasker told more than 50 residents gathered at the town hall last week, “We have to get lean and mean.”
First Selectman Harry Gould agreed. “If we have a building that we aren’t using, we’re gonna sell it.”
And if the loan isn’t approved? “I really don’t know,” Gould said. “We might have to send out a supplemental tax bill.”