Board names Cross new part-time recreation directorSelectmen will urge bank to put historic home up for sale
Searsport — After being without an active recreation department in recent years, a new part-time program is now back in business.
During the regular meeting Tuesday night, July 16, the Searsport Board of Selectmen formally introduced Kari Cross as the new part-time recreation director.
Cross told the board she was excited to take the position, especially where she has a school aged child at Searsport Elementary who would participate in the recreation programs. In addition to the children's activities and sports camps that the recreation program has been traditionally know for in the past, Cross said she hoped to organize activities and trips for the community and some events specific to local seniors.
For August, Cross said she is organizing a week-long sports camp that would introduce youths to several types of sports — everything from basketball and baseball to tennis, if possible. She is also planning a princess dance camp for the week of Aug. 12-16 that will include the talents of an area dance instructor. Cross said she is planning a trip to Funtown-Splashtown in Saco, and has contacted Fort Knox in Prospect Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay to organize a couple more potential trips this season.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Charlene Knox-Farris asked selectmen if they would consider reinstating the original recreation policy that barred any activities on Sundays before 1 p.m. In the past, Farris said games had been scheduled on Sunday mornings, which posed a challenge to the families who attend one of the six active churches in town.
“We all recognize that both church and sports instill positive values,” she said.
Town Manager James Gillway agreed, and when Cross was speaking, selectmen asked her if it was possible to schedule activities around the Sunday morning church services.
Cross said while it can be difficult to avoid Sundays if activities that have been rained out must be rescheduled, the schedule could be crafted taking those concerns into consideration.
Cross said she has a Facebook page for the recreation department up and running, and she also has posted information about the new program at the town office. Both include her contact information.
Gillway said the department is in need of volunteers, and encouraged those interested in helping to revive the program to contact Cross or stop in at the town office.
In other news
Selectman Doug Norman raised concerns about a property located on Elm Street known as the Thurston House. Norman said the historic property has deteriorated since Wells Fargo Bank foreclosed on the property about five years ago.
“It was never put up for sale,” said Norman.
Norman said he and others have tried to contact someone at the bank to find out why, but to date those calls have not resulted in any new information regarding what the bank intends to do with the property.
Norman said he wants the bank to have a better understanding of how valuable the property is to the town, and to that end, he asked Farris — who is also the town historian — to learn more about the origin of the home.
Farris said the home was built for Stephen Thurston and his wife Clara in the 1830s, after he became the second pastor at the congregational church in 1825. Back then, Farris said, Searsport had yet to be incorporated and the church was constructed in what was formerly known as West Prospect.
Thurston and his wife raised 12 children in the home, which years later was converted into a bed and breakfast. Farris said Thurston was also a “dynamic force” and a powerful speaker, and both of those aspects of his personality were handy in the man's advocacy for abolition and the prohibition of alcohol.
“He was a big mover and a shaker,” said Farris.
The Thurston remained in the home for many years, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary there before Thurston accepted an offer to serve at a Portland church.
Norman said he is worried the house will fall into further disrepair if it is not sold to a new owner who might invest in the property and make necessary repairs. Norman said the former property owner told him seven years ago that the roof needed to be replaced, and to Norman's knowledge, that work was never done.
Norman asked the board to join forces with the town historical society and preservation committee to write a letter to Wells Fargo urging to company to put the home up for sale. Norman noted he knew of a few people who had expressed interest in buying and restoring the home.
“The original Dutch oven is still in the kitchen,” said Norman.
After some additional discussion, selectmen voted unanimously to write a letter asking the bank to put the property up for sale.
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Tanya has been a general news reporter in Waldo County since 1997.
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