Last chance for a small school: Shirley balks at halting closure

Posted June 04, 2009, at 8:09 p.m.

SHIRLEY, Maine — It was a quiet annual town meeting but a notable one.

Residents on Wednesday affirmed the permanent closing of the Shirley Elementary School in July and recognized the town’s 175th anniversary.

“This is the 175th town meeting and we got through it with no bloodshed,” Selectman David Thorp said Wednesday at the close of the meeting.

Joking aside, it was a bittersweet moment for some residents, who had hoped to keep the school mothballed for a year in the event more young families moved to the community. That request failed in a 20-13 vote.

Actually, the vote was moot, residents were told, because the Shirley School Committee had voted to close the school and residents had supported that move in a referendum held earlier this year. The closing was based on the lack of pupils.

“You can’t override state law,” Superintendent Heather Perry said Thursday. If the building were to be reopened as a school, it would have to meet all state requirements. In past years, the school had been grandfathered from many state regulations because of its age and condition.

It will be up to residents to decide the future use of the building.

As for the town’s anniversary, residents approved the use of $12,000 from surplus to fund a celebration on Aug. 8. Resident Debi Baker said a committee was working on plans that include fireworks, a parade and children’s games.

Residents also voted to raise $22,000 for operating expenses at the Greenville landfill, which the town uses, and to place $25,000 in a reserve account for its future closing. The Department of Environmental Protection has advised Greenville officials that the town must close the facility. Shirley would be responsible for 6.33 percent of the closing costs, which are estimated at $700,000 to $1.2 million, Thorp said. He said it was important to start setting aside funds for the project.

Re-elected to office were Lucky Labonte as town clerk; Jeff Mace as selectman; Judy Baker as treasurer; Geneva Beckwith as tax collector and school board member; Thomas Othouse as sexton; and the selectmen as overseers of the poor. Also elected were Pat Mace to the school board and Robert Graves as road commissioner.

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