Several members of the Searsport Lions Club informed selectmen at their Feb. 12 meeting that the organization is considering selling its building on Prospect Street and giving the town "first crack" at an offer.

One Lions Club member said, "times have changed" and noted declining membership and a rise in fuel and insurance costs as deciding factors.

"We had an insurance claim that surprised us," he said. "We weren't expecting our insurance to go up so much."

The club member went on to say they received several offers but thought it only fitting that the town decide if it should remain a municipal building with public support.

"It's a public building," he said. "We wanted to see if you are interested to make an offer on it."

Offers ranged, he said, from $75,000 to $260,000; and said it was currently insured for $283,000. He also said the club would be interested in leasing the building back from the town for its functions.

Over the years, he said, the Lions Club has sponsored public suppers, wedding receptions and spaghetti dinners.

"These are things that will all be lost — if you guys don't take it over," one member said.

On the list of "pros," the Lions mentioned the building having a commercial kitchen with "a great sink, the furnace is not that old, the roof is new" and that it currently has a liquor license.

One resident cautioned, "The town, who represents the taxpayer, has to be aware of the costs and the labor (involved with this undertaking)."

Town Manager James Gillway said there were a few maintenance issues the building would need.  "Floors need to be dealt with; it needs to be painted," he said, and recommended installing heat pumps.

A Lions member said the town could take it over for "four or five years," then decide to sell and "get your money back."

Selectmen Dick Desmarais said, "We are losing a real gem if sold. This should not leave our town."

He also said it was the selectmen's obligation to take it to the people. "We don't make the final decisions."

The majority of selectmen seemed interested in the opportunity and said it would come down to wording the question for town meeting and coming up with an offer.

Gillway suggested combining the purchase of the building and first year operating costs as a method of making sure funds were available for both and not one without the other.

The question is placed on the warrant and will come before residents at the March 9 town meeting at Union Hall.

In other town news, Searsport Emergency Management Director Bud Rivers spoke at the Feb. 19 selectmen's meeting on the topic of solar energy.

Gillway tapped Rivers — who has a master's degree in heat transfer and practical skills of working "in the industry" — as a good source of information about specifics concerning proposed a Sundog Solar contract with the town. The company hopes to install solar panels on municipal property and sell energy to the town at a reduced rate, as it has done in several neighboring towns.

Rivers said he was unable to determine, from the literature Sundog Solar provided, what latitude they were basing their projected energy gathering from.

He said that "after running the numbers," it seemed Sundog might be using incident solar radiation information that is available for southern Nevada or Arizona of 1,000 watts per meter squared, rather than what is available in Searsport, or 230-watts, according to the Department of Energy.

It is a "huge difference," he said. "We need to make sure the projections they make are based on solar radiation at latitude 44 rather than latitude 38."

Rivers went on to say the closer to the equator, the more incident radiation is available and the more sunlight reaches the earth.

Also, the higher the elevation, the more solar radiation hits the ground. The Nevada-Arizona area is in the Rocky Mountains. The average altitude is 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level, while Searsport is only at 300 feet above sea level.

Selectman Doug Norman asked if Sundog's numbers were inflated.

Rivers said, "I can't say for sure, Doug; I was unable to determine in reading their literature which curves they are basing their numbers on."

Selectman Mark Bradstreet added, "Their numbers seemed optimistic to me."

Rivers said, "All of their literature was based on 1,000 (watts per meter squared). It was the only number that they mention."

Selectmen decided to table the Sundog Solar contract to a date to be determined, when company representatives would be available for questions.