CAMDEN — On April 5, the group of citizens, school board members and staff tasked with conceptualizing how to repurpose the Mary E. Taylor school building in Camden will convene for its second meeting in the Camden-Rockport Middle School Library from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The Repurposing Committee first met March 22, and under the leadership of Camden resident Bob Lawson, reviewed its mission, which, according to its assigned charter, is to serve in advisory capacity to the School Administrative District 28 (Camden-Rockport K-8) School Board and to craft a recommendation for MET’s future.
The brick school building, on Knowlton Street, was constructed in 1925 and last fall, the nonprofit Maine Historic Preservation placed MET on its 2017 list of the state’s most endangered historic places. Its future has been hotly debated by those who want to keep it standing and those who want it torn down.
MET Repurposing Committee Charter
The MET Repurposing Committee, empowered the SAD 28 Board of Directors, is serving in an advisory role and will make a project recommendation to the School Board.
The Committee will work with Oak Point Associates (architects) and administration to develop a concept for repurposing the MET Building that will go before voters in November 2018.
The Committee will regularly report to the Board on its progress.
The Committee is charged with the following:
1. Developing a proposal to repurpose the MET building primarily for district(s) use that potentially includes housing the Central Office, the Zenith program, and the day time Adult Ed program.
2. Determine the feasibility of a variety of alternative uses for the basement that could include leasing that space to a private entity.
3. If feasible uses for the basement are identified, explore, evaluate, and try to secure a favorable lease for future use prior to the referendum.
4. Any proposal should be sensitive to the following:
a. Cost – Balance costs, quality and scope to optimize long-term value.
b. Safety – Adhere to school safety standards in Zenith’s space and air quality/health standards for all occupants.
c. Accessibility – Comply with current ADA standards.
d. Environment – View financial decisions through a lens of environmental responsibility giving due consideration to treading lightly on the planet.
e. Independence - Ensure that the design does not impact the safe and efficient operation of the new middle school.
5. Prepare and submit monthly status reports relating to project progress to the School Board.
6. Create subcommittees when needed.
7. Serve as a bridge to the community during this project.
8. Identify a qualified cost estimation firm to provide an independent estimate of the costs to repurpose the MET building.
9. Develop a concept design with the architects.
10. Evaluate the cost estimates received from Oak Point and from the independent firm to develop a detailed cost figure that can be placed on the November ballot.
11. The concept design and detailed cost figure will be done by August 1.
The building committee will be comprised of 8 members. This will include 3 School Board Members, 3 community members, a Zenith representative, a CRMS representative, and a district administration representative.
A simple majority of the members will constitute a quorum. Consensus is the preferred method of decision-making, but motions will be passed by a simple majority of those members present.
On March 21, the Camden-Rockport School Board voted unanimously to keep the 1925-built MET under SAD 28 ownership and not consider relinquishing it back to town ownership, despite discussions otherwise by interested citizens, and a petition to that effect (the petition has since been put on hold, given the formation of the MET Repurposing Committee. Read: Josh Gerritsen states why he is not moving forward with MET citizen petition, and will wait to see the committee’s plan.)
The Repurposing Committee was created by the SAD 28 School Board in February, following its January decision not to further consider Michael Mullins’ proposal to buy MET and initiate a privately funded adaptive reuse of the 28,2000-square-foot building. Mullins had said he would establish a community workspace there.
Mullins had stepped forward in November after the board decided last summer to entertain proposals to keep MET standing, instead of tearing it down as part of the new middle school construction project.
Instead, the board decided to move ahead with pursuing its own ideas for keeping MET standing.
In January, the board voted: “that the superintendent instruct Oak Point Associates to proceed with a zoning change and a bid alternate for the current middle school project that would secure the MET building and allow the district to proceed with an MET multipurpose building project, if approved by the district voters as an amendment to the current middle school project; that the superintendent be instructed to request from Oak Point Associates a design budget for the concept work, including independent cost estimation, necessary to submit the MET multipurpose building project to the voters; that the superintendent be authorized to select, subject to approval of this board, an independent cost estimation firm to prepare an estimate of costs to design and construct renovations and improvements to the MET building for use as a multipurpose building by the district and possible other occupants; and that the superintendent be authorized to initiate and RFP process to seek an architectural firm for the MET multipurpose building project.”
At its March 21 board meeting, SAD 28 members unanimously (8 to 0) agreed that: “the property is too valuable to the school district to lose ownership. The Board has a vested interest in holding onto the property in order to best serve the educational needs of our students now and in the future,” according to meeting minutes.
The matter had come up again given the petition that was circulating to move ownership of the MET building back to the Town of Camden.
“Upon motion by Matt Dailey and second by Lynda Chilton, the Board resolved that it is in the best long-term interest of the school district and the community for the district to retain ownership of the full Middle School campus,” the minutes concluded.
The Repurposing Committee is now tasked with producing an MET concept, with the help of Tyler Barter, of Oak Point Associates, the Biddeford-based company that has been retained by SAD 28 since 2013 to first help conceive of a new middle school plan, and then design and engineer the new $26 million middle school.
SAD 28 is paying Oak Point an additional $40,000 to help create a plan for MET, an expenditure that is included in the 2018-2019 SAD 28 budget.
At the March 22 Repurposing Committee meeting (click here to watch it), Chairman Bob Lawson and other members told Barter that they wanted to review the documents his company had produced in 2013 that estimated the renovation of MET to total $3.4 million.
Barter told them that his company had not drawn floor plans, but had taken a list of desired building purposes and affixed cost estimates to those purposes.
The committee, which is meeting every two weeks, asked Barter to return with the documents to one of its April meetings.
The school board’s desire for an MET proposal, as laid out in the committee’s charter (see sidebar) is to create space for SAD 28 and Five Town CSD administrative offices, as well as for the Camden Hills Regional High School alternative program known as Zenith.
The offices and Zenith are currently housed in the nearby Bus Barn, constructed as such but never used for maintaining the fleet of buses. Instead, the space has been used for the offices and academic classrooms.
Repurposing Committee members include:
Bob Lawson, Camden resident, and former chairman of the Five Town CSD, as well as SAD 28 board member;
Alison McKellar, Camden resident and Camden Select Board member;
Carole Gartley, Rockport resident and SAD 28 School Board member;
Helen Scipione, Lincolnville resident and Zenith Coordinator;
Marcia Dietrich, Rockport resident and SAD 28 School Board member;
Matt Smith, Camden resident and Camden-Rockport Middle School Assistant Principal;
Meg Quijano, Camden resident and owner of the Camden downtown business Smiling Cow;
Michael Weatherwax, Camden resident, former Camden-Rockport Middle School principal and assistant superintendent for SAD 28 and the Five Town CSD for seven years; and
Peter Orne, Camden resident and SAD 28 School Board member.
The Repurposing Committee now has its own page the Middle Matters website, which was created to keep the public informed about the middle school vote, and then the construction progress of the new middle school.
Click here for the MET page, and to read agendas and minutes of committee meetings.
The committee members agreed at its first meeting to take turns keeping minutes of the meetings. They also discussed the viability of streaming their meetings, and possibly convening in the MET building itself.
The April 5 meeting will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Camden-Rockport Middle School Library. The agenda follows:
- Review Committee Charter
a. Role and Responsibility of the MET Repurposing Committee
- Recap March 23rd MET Walk-Through
- Overview of “Area” needs
- a. Zenith – Helen
b. Adult Ed – Helen
c. District Office – Maria/Keith
- MET Basement
a. Establish “basic” criteria for use
b. How to promote, receive and review ideas/proposals for space use
- c. Cut-off date to receive ideas/proposals
- Proposed Agenda Items for Next Meeting
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