Greenville special town meeting vote set for 4-year-old after-school program
GREENVILLE — A potential after-school care program for pre-kindergarten students through the Moosehead Caring for Kids Foundation and the Greenville Recreation Department could be launched if funding is approved by residents at a special town meeting scheduled for the evening of Sept. 27. The select board approved the special meeting to see if a to-be-determined amount will be raised and appropriated for the rec department to run the program in the current academic year.
During the Sept. 6 select board meeting, Jennifer Clark of the Moosehead Caring for Kids Foundation Board of Directors said she wanted to clear up some confusion about the formation of an after-school program for 4-year-olds that do not have such care. Clark said she has spoken with Town Manager Mike Roy, Rec Director Sally Tornquist, and her fellow foundation board members on what needs to be done and have this in writing.
She said a draft memo “spells out best how we are looking at this program.”
The document asks the town to operate the program as an after-school club through the rec department, with the 4-year-olds attending pre-K at the Greenville Consolidated School. The students would be in the cafeteria five days a week until 5 p.m. when they are picked up, on both full and half days of school, and could use the playground when the weather allows.
Families would enroll through the rec department, as opposed to a childcare program which follows different state guidelines.
“We suggest a tuition fee of $15 a day to be paid to the rec department by parents weekly,” Clark said. She said the foundation would provide financial support for snacks or other items.
The foundation board voted 5-0 to financially support the program, including covering any budget shortfalls should tuition fees not fund everything.
“We feel like one staff person would need to be hired and hired through the rec department,” Clark said. “One volunteer staff person would also be scheduled in case of that person’s illness or emergency.”
She said a schedule of volunteer substitutes would be provided one month in advance. Until the staff member is hired, the foundation could provide volunteers to work after school.
“The goal will be to find someone who has more experience than just a high school individual,” Clark said, saying a pay scale of $20 an hour would be comparable to summer care rates.
“It’s our fiduciary responsibility as a board to make sure you know that we have safety issues addressed, we have budget issues addressed,” Select Board Chairperson Geno Murry said. He said last month the select board voted to support the program but they need to be consistent and cannot fund the program without approval from residents as it was not included in the municipal budget.
“We’re not interested in throwing up roadblocks and we’re not interested in not being supportive, we just want to do the right thing,” Murray said.
Roy said at the previous meeting his biggest concern was with the use of town finances. “That’s my stance if you will, ” he said. “It’s all budgetary. I do support it.”
He did mention some full-time town employees do not make $20 per hour, so this is another monetary concern.
Clark said she checked with an area daycare provider, and was told the 4-year-olds would be in a different age group from the programs the business offers. “Her sense was that she couldn’t really help with this issue with these particular kids because of their age,” Clark said.
Currently a daycare facility through the foundation is housed at the snowmobile club with about 20 preschool and younger children attending daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A group of 20 children ages 5 and up take part in an after-school program through the recreation department at the Greenville Consolidated School once classes conclude, but 4-year-olds are not permitted to be in an after-school program with older children.
Janet Chasse of the foundation said that six 4-year-olds left the daycare to attend pre-K school. Two girls attend the daycare after school because there is currently space, but Chasse said she watches four boys now on a volunteer basis but she won’t be able to do this all year long.
“We’ll have to hold six spaces all day long in order for those kids to come after school,” she said.
“We are not throwing these kids to the wolves, we are really attached to them and want to make sure they succeed and that they do well after school and through their transitions,” she said.
Murray mentioned it is not the select board’s job to get into operations, “We just need to make sure that legally, structurally, and procedurally things are in place.”
He said last month the board voted 4-1 to support the program, so unless there is a new motion then the vote stands. Select person Bonnie Dubien said she agrees with the need for the program but does not agree with all of the setup so that is why she voted no.
Roy estimated a timeframe of 452 hours of childcare across the school year, coming to $9,312 in wages at $20 an hour plus $1,546 for insurance and payroll tax for a cost of $10,859 for one employee. With two employees this would be doubled.
Chasse said last month the program would be a stopgap until the new childcare facility is constructed on the school property.
Earlier this year $1.5 million in federal funding was secured with the passage of the 2023 omnibus spending bill to build a facility on the school campus to house a childcare center, pre-K classrooms, and community recreation center. Chasse said she believed ground could be broken next spring and the building could be operational in the fall of 2024, but Roy said this schedule may be too tight.
In other business, the select board heard an update from Police Chief Jim Carr.
“The calls of everything are up, mental health calls are way up — more this summer than the last few summers combined,” he said. The chief said some responses that used to take 10 minutes now take much longer as he mentioned different people and different personalities with different problems than in the past.
Carr said there have been several property line disputes per week, instead of just a few annually. He said there are about nine summons currently on his desk to go to the district attorney for charges such as theft, mischief, OUI, and violation of bail,
The department has been dealing with some ATV complaints, particularly on the East Road with calls saying riders on ATVs and dirt bikes are going too fast and causing damage to the dirt travelway. Carr said a $3,500 grant from the state will help with enforcement.
He said the Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency provided another $6,000 grant to help with active shooter training and gear.
At the annual town meeting a school resource officer position was approved and Carr said Josh Guay is serving in this position Monday to Friday when classes are in session.
Carr introduced the department’s newest officer, William Plume who had been a patrol officer and investigator for the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office.
Plume, who also operates a cabin rental business locally, is retired from the New York City Police Department. He said during this time he was on a SWAT team, done tactical work, hostage negotiations, and worked with mental health crises.
In his report Roy said, “The public safety building, it’s moving quickly and they’ve already got paint on the sheet rock in there so it’s painted.” He said the floor colors have been matched with walls and trim.
Roy said custom signs have been made for the East Road, stating that ATV/dirt bike access is a privilege and riders are asked to obey speed limits and not tear the surface up.