Debates over the last six months on what to do with the playground near Pemetic Elementary School and Harbor House Community Center in Southwest Harbor have caused confusion, concern and maybe a little whiplash.
Voters are set to decide June 12 whether to borrow $180,000 from the town’s unassigned fund balance to rebuild the playground. The funding question ought to pass.
Selectmen are right to keep a close eye on spending to avoid unnecessary tax increases, but the playground has been old and rusty long enough.
School officials are increasingly concerned that use of the playground is a large liability.
In this case, it hardly matters whether the facility is the town’s or the school’s responsibility since the local school budget is funded almost entirely through local property taxes. It appears to be a classic case of approving school budgets in the millions of dollars with little to no community comment or input until it’s too late, while arguing endlessly over a couple of thousand in road or fire budgets.
Private fundraising efforts to upgrade the playground equipment, motivated by safety concerns, have come in waves for 30 years, but building a safe, modern playground is more expensive than it used to be. The town needs to step in and make this important facility one of public pride.