Council rejects motion to revisit MacDougal School proposalOfficer Don Finnegan commended for 20 years of service
Rockland — The City Council on Aug. 13 killed a motion that would have authorized the council to permit The Old School or other organizations to conduct an engineering assessment of the MacDougal School and land.
A motion called Order 42, introduced by Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson, was ruled out of order by Mayor Brian Harden because items in the order had been acted upon in a prior vote.
The order also would have authorized the council to prepare a report detailing the projected cost if the city were to proceed with the demolition of the building, including the cost of any work done by city employees.
A third provision of the proposed order asked for a legal opinion from "a competent counsel" on the city's obligations and the public's rights.
Dickerson explained at the start of a discussion that the order had been written by Joe Steinberger of The Old School and submitted under her name.
Dickerson said she personally was opposed to tearing down the building, and called it "unfortunate" that the council has not considered what the people want for the vacated school building.
At the same time, she said she was not happy to hear the city officials and schools described in such a negative way by critics. As a high school technology teacher, she said she is impressed with the quality of education being offered at Oceanside East High School.
On a motion by Councilor Larry Pritchett, the council voted unanimously to support an amendment striking the third provision, to require the city to seek a legal opinion on the deed restrictions of the future use of the property.
Harden then ruled the motion out of order.
Steinberger, who had opened the meeting with a plea in the public forum, called council members incompetent, using terms like "amateur bureaucrats" to describe them. He called on the public to vote them all out of office.
Harden said later he was unimpressed with the fact that Steinberger had not stayed for the remainder of the meeting, and suggested that if Steinberger felt so strongly about the council, then he should immediately take out nomination papers for the next election.
Councilor Eric Hebert said "it was very disheartening" for someone to come before the council and make the kinds of comments the board heard.
He pointed out that something the council was blamed for, the relocation of the Watershed School from the Lincoln Street Center to Camden, was a factor of private business responding in the best way it could to the situation.
He said problems with the Lincoln Street Center were the result of someone "kicking the can of maintenance down the road."
"The Watershed School was faced with a short deadline. We were wrongly accused," Hebert said.
He reminded the others that when Steinberger first proposed to use the Lincoln Street Center for his Old School community education concept, he could not say where the money would come from to pay for an upgrade of the building.
"I think we need to move forward and put this behind us," Hebert said.
Harden apologized to attendees for having allowed Steinberger to talk too long during the public forum, which puts a five-minute limit on speeches.
"I apologize to all of you," Harden said. "I think his remarks were inappropriate."
The council also approved a resolve commending Police Officer Don Finnegan for his 20 years of service to the Rockland Police Department.
Correction: A previous version of this story contained inaccurate information about changes to city employee benefits. That portion of the story has been removed. It was due to a reporting error.