SAD 28 Board Chairman responds to Camden Historic Resources Committee

Posted:  Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 11:00pm
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This is a response to the Camden Historic Resources Committee’s “An open letter to the SAD 28 School Board”.

In June. 2017 the voters of Camden and Rockport approved funding for a proposal to build a new middle school and demolish the existing middle school. The proposal did not include a plan to preserve or renovate any part of the existing facility and as such the funding approved by the voters cannot be used for that purpose. If the Mary E Taylor building is to be saved, then a source of funding will need to be secured to make it viable for the building to have a life after having been part of the middle school. Any voter who "believed that the MET building would be reconsidered and eventually valued and saved", should not be surprised that without funding the MET building does not have a future no matter how noble a purpose is imagined for it.

From the open letter, the statement "...the restrictions placed by the school administrative body on the potential uses of the building, it appears that no serious consideration is being given to the future of the building..." baffles me. The School Board will consider all proposals fairly. The board published guidelines for proposals for the future use of the Mary E Taylor building in July. If you read them, you will find that there is no language that prevents potential future uses of the MET building. The only statement that impacts a potential use is "Because the MET building would be in close proximity to the new middle school, the proposal must permit MSAD 28 to place reasonable use/activity restrictions on the MET property." This is quite reasonable and it is hardly restrictive considering the potential uses are already constrained by the applicable zoning laws. The goal of the restrictions is to ensure that anyone making a proposal is complying with the law, has the necessary expertise to execute their plan and has the financial means to do so. These are not extraordinary requirements and anyone who is not able to demonstrate the capability to achieve them should be rightly disqualified from being responsible for the future of the building.

From the open letter, the statement "Since the well-constructed building is in good physical condition, it appears that a satisfactory use for the building could be determined if time were afforded to honestly consider and identify alternative uses" overestimates the condition of the building and underestimates the urgency in needing to make a decision about its future. The MET building was long ago integrated into the whole of the middle school facility and it depends on the connection to the rest of the middle school for power, heat and to act as part of one of its walls. The moment that the rest of the middle school is demolished it is not fair to say that the MET building is in good physical condition, even excusing the lack of power and heat, when it will have a significant part of one wall that will be open to the elements. It will take work to just make the building function as a standalone structure. This is why time is not plentiful. If the MET building is not to be demolished, then whoever takes responsibility for it needs to start work when the rest of the middle school is demolished. Hiring, bidding, permitting, planning, grant writing, fund raising, legal opinions and voter approvals will all take time. It has been nearly 3 years since the voters of Camden and Rockport refused funding for a middle school proposal that included MET building renovations. It has been nearly 2 years since the Camden Select Board declined any interest in using the building. It has been nearly 1 year since the School Board voted to demolish the building. It has been nearly 6 months since the School Board voted to consider other options for the future of the MET building. Time has been afforded to honestly consider and identify alternative uses.

The School Board is currently in the process of reconsidering the options for the future of the Mary E Taylor building. I truly do hope that some group or individual proposes a solution that saves the MET building to the benefit of the community However, it is just not realistic to expect that that reconsideration continue without end. Eventually the cost of waiting will fall on to the property owners of Camden and Rockport which is not a reasonable outcome. It would be irresponsible for the School Board to allow that to happen.

If the Historic Resources Committee wants to propose a use for the MET building, then it is welcome to. Proposals are being accepted until November 30. The guidelines for proposals can be found at: http://www.penbaypilot.com/article/sad-28-board-directors-issues-public-statement-met-building/89611

Matt Dailey is chairman of the Camden-Rockport (SAD 28) School Board