HARTLAND, Maine — The town of Hartland’s unfinished public swimming pool has a chance to win some much-needed money, but it will take a sustained and widespread effort by area residents to make it happen.
The project on Thursday was named one of five finalists in a contest sponsored by the Web site www.gatheringswithpurpose.com. Whichever project receives the most online votes by Dec. 6 wins $2,500. That is just about how much is needed if the pool is to have any chance of opening in time for warm weather next summer, said John Clark, a member of an informal committee of residents who are trying to keep the project going.
The town has spent approximately $53,000 on the pool to date, according to Town Manager Larry Post, but the project was essentially abandoned when the town’s financial problems came to light in 2008. Earlier this year, the town borrowed $1.4 million from the Maine Municipal Bond Bank to pay off old debts, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to Somerset County and Maine School Administrative District 48.
“The town hasn’t been in a position in the last year to put any funds into it,” Post said.
For years, Hartland-area residents had a public pool on Pleasant Street, but that was closed after the facility “outlived its life and usefulness,” said Post.
The pool facility, which includes a large pool and a smaller, more shallow pool, is located adjacent Hartland Consolidated School. A chain-link fence blocks access to the facility, which to pool committee member Barbara Day seems almost like a tease for the hundreds of children who play and go to school nearby.
“It’s kind of sad because they can see the fenced-in pool there but it’s not finished,” said Day. “Even though we live in the beautiful state of Maine with lakes and forests everywhere, a lot of people don’t have access to a place to swim.”
The project has already received some grant money, including $1,000 from the Plum Creek Foundation and $5,000 from the Maine Community Foundation. Elementary school students contributed $803.92 from a penny drive and an antiques auction in March netted $2,000.
“We’re getting ever so close,” said Day.
Clark, who helps the pool committee write grant applications, said he entered the “Gatherings with a Purpose” contest on a whim. Sponsored by Modern Woodmen of America, the “Gatherings” Web site, which promotes family get-togethers, promises $2,500 to whichever of five projects gathers the most votes. The competition is steep, including a proposed cheerleading squad made up of people with special needs in Iowa and medical expenses for children in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Voters can support one of the projects at the Web site www.gatheringswithpurpose.com. Each person can vote once a day and Clark estimates it will take a lot of people voting daily to win.