Opinion

Camden-Rockport school superintendent, board chairman, vice chairman explain process for Mary E. Taylor building

Posted:  Monday, February 12, 2018 - 1:00pm
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The School Administrative District 28 School Board wants to ensure a transparent process for the potential repurposing of the Mary E. Taylor (MET) wing of the current Camden Rockport Middle School facility. We offer the following timeline to make sure our community is aware of the current status of this process. Not every detail is included, but the major milestones are. This timeline should provide an overview of critical decisions or events that have occurred the past three years regarding MET. It is followed by an explanation of our next steps.

February 2015: The SAD 28 School Board held a referendum for the funding of a new school campus that included a free standing and renovated MET building to be used for the school district’s Central Office and the high school’s alternative education program (“Zenith”). Voters rejected this referendum question with 946 no to 668 yes.

January 2016: Camden Select Board declined to take up the question of whether the municipal government had an interest in potential future uses of the MET building. 

Spring – Fall 2016: The CRMS Building Vision committee and district administration worked for months to gather community input on a new project vision, considering three options (patch, renovate, build new). In discussions with hundreds of residents, the community overwhelming supported a new middle school building that did not include the MET building.

December 2016: The School Board voted to demolish the MET building because it was not an element of the new middle school project, it is not a functional, habitable structure without the attachment to the rest of the existing facility, and the land could be used for other school purposes. 

Spring 2017: Major public information campaign about the new middle school project, entitled, The Middle Matters.

May 2017: Citizens begin to voice support to “save” the MET building. 

May 2017: Board agreed to reconsider the future of MET and placed the topic on its June agenda.

June 2017: There was a referendum vote to build a new middle school and demolish the existing facility. The proposal was approved 1,947 yes to 897 no. 

June 2017: School Board further discusses the future of MET and listens to public input. Board decided to devote a special meeting in July to the future of the building.

July 2017: School Board meeting devoted to MET issue. Much public discussion. Board agrees to the concept of accepting public or private proposals for the MET building.

August 2017: Board published criteria for proposals to repurpose the MET building.

November 2017: Deadline for proposals to repurpose MET on Nov. 30.

November 2017: Michael Mullins submitted the sole proposal to repurpose the MET building into the Camden Workspace. Board members have over a month to read and review the proposal.

December, 2017: Board chair, Superintendent, and district legal counsel (via phone) meet with Michael Mullins to share questions/concerns that should be addressed in his board presentation. The proposal is submitted to the school district architects and legal counsel for analysis regarding legal compliance and impact to new middle school project. 

January 10, 2018: Michael Mullins presented his proposal to the board in a special board meeting. Board unanimously voted to reject the Mullins proposal.

January 24, 2018: Understanding the community interest in keeping the MET building operational, the board voted to pursue a potential multi-use repurposing of the building for its own needs (Central Office and Zenith) and in possibly pursuing alternative uses for part of the building.

February 14, 2018: Board will approve a committee charter for a new committee to develop a concept for repurposing the building that will go to voters in November 2018. The committee will include members of the school board, community, and staff.

The board has heard the interest in the community in finding a viable future use for the MET building. The board is also aware that part of the community supports demolishing the building. Controversy has surrounded this building for the past 10 months. The board understands its role to serve the educational needs of our students, but also recognizes the role of the school and this building in the larger community. 

Therefore, the board feels the best course of action is to provide voters with a sensible and viable repurposing option for the MET building that addresses certain district needs while at the same time enables MET to stay standing. Once the board formulates a viable plan, mainly through the MET repurposing committee, voters will decide in November whether they feel the benefits of retaining the building outweigh the costs. As this project unfolds, the SAD 28 School Board and district administration will continue to provide factual information to voters about the decision that will be on the ballot in November.

 

Matt Dailey is chairman of the SAD 28 School Board. Lynda Chilton is vice chairman. Maria Libby is superintendent of SAD 28.