Special town meeting in Hartland put on hold

Posted Jan. 28, 2009, at 7:56 p.m.

HARTLAND, Maine — Officials put off setting a special town meeting this week after it appeared that more work needed to be done to obtain emergency funding to keep the town afloat.

“Nobody seems to be operating on Hartland crisis time,” interim Town Manager Larry Post said Wednesday.

He said he has met with a bank and needs to get more information to bank officers before a decision is made on a $650,000 loan.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Post said. The loan would be added to the town’s current debt and paid over the next 10 years, he said.

Officials at Prime Tanning Co., the town’s largest employer, told selectmen earlier this month that they would make an attempt to pay $110,000 in outstanding taxes as soon as possible. The bill was due last November.

Hartland hired Post late last year to help find the way through a financial quagmire that included, at the time, almost $1 million in debt.

When the shortfall was discovered last fall, the town’s selectmen explained to residents that the previous town manager, Peggy Morgan, failed to raise enough money to cover expenditures. Morgan had worked for the town for nearly 30 years, but after the shortfall was discovered, Morgan was not rehired after attempting to return to work last fall after a medical leave for cancer treatment.

Attorneys for both the town and Morgan are in negotiations regarding a settlement for breaking the contract, Post said.

In December, voters approved increasing this year’s tax bill by $3.50 per $1,000 of valuation to help offset the overwhelming debt. Part of the debt includes more than $400,000 owed to SAD 48, which threatened to sue to the town if payment was not made.

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