Letter to the editor: Bob Lawson

Vote yes to renovate the MET school building

Posted:  Sunday, November 4, 2018 - 10:00pm
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My wife and I just finished renovating our 160 year-old house.  In the beginning, we were anxious to start construction.  By the end, we were equally anxious to finish it. As one would expect, it was an experience, (translation – painful-joyful), in both actual construction and financial. But my wife and I love old houses.  For us, the history of the home, the street it sits on, the community it is a part of, all of this, made it important to do the renovation right.  In the end, we are very happy with the results.  We hope the renovation has made our neighborhood that much better.  I actually want people, local and from away, to drive through our neighborhood and remark, “what a great street with these great old homes!”

Our home happens to be just down the street from the Mary E Taylor school building.  Much like the renovation of our 160 year-old home, the thought of renovating the MET building to be repurposed as the new home for the Zenith Program and School District Offices is not something to be considered lightly.  And it hasn’t.  A group of community members representing Camden and Rockport assembled this past spring/summer, meeting regularly, to explore the idea of repurposing the MET building.  The bottom line – determine what needed to be done to bring the building up-to-date and the relevant cost associated with such a project.

As mentioned in previous articles written by Mike Sabatini and Alison McKellar, the Zenith Program, currently housed in the Bus Barn, is making do with the limited space it has… with a waiting list of additional at-risk-students in need of this exceptional program.  The School District Administrative offices, also housed in the Bus Barn, have been shoe-horned in their current space for a number of years and are long-overdue to be housed in a space that will provide for a better working environment.  And, we could actually use the bus barn for what it was intended – maintaining our fleet of school busses. 

I hate the $4.9 million price tag for the renovation.  But I didn’t like the cost of renovating my 160 year-old home either.  But it was worth it in the end.  Mike Sabatini’s article (Penbay Article), did a great job of breaking down those costs, showing what the true cost of the renovation will be and how some of the bond expense would be paid for through proposed lease payments from the CSD and renting the space in the basement to another entity that would be synergistic to the new Middle School next door and the surrounding neighborhood.

The MET building is part of the fabric that makes the Camden-Rockport area unique.  Alison McKellar’s detailed article (Penbay Article) puts the building in historical perspective, also sharing how the very real possibility of the building being added to the National Register of Historic Places would also help mitigate the cost of maintaining the building… and be another historical treasure our community can be proud to call its home.

The Mary E Taylor building is an investment in our community.  As with any investment, there is a cost associated with it.  The MET Re-Purposing Committee vetted the renovation cost with an independent cost estimator to ensure the review was not biased. Unique to this investment, are the myriad of opportunities in which some of these costs are minimized.  Also unique to this investment, is the historical aspect.  The Camden-Rockport area is home to some of the finest schools in the state.  Having a new, state-of-the-art Middle School a stone’s throw from a community landmark in education, the MET building, demonstrates to me, this community’s appreciation of its rich history with a continued focus on its bright future.  Much like our 160 year-old home, I want to maintain historical relevance in our community and update it to last future generations.

Vote YES to repurpose the Mary E. Taylor building on November 6.

Bob Lawson lives in Camden and is a member of the MET Repurposing Committee.