Gordon Best said May 6 that the major issue for the future of the former Rockport Elementary School property at the corner of Route 1 and West Street was the desire among townspeople to have continued use of the field and, maybe, the gym.

Five candidates will vie for two seats on the Rockport Select Board. Select Board Chairman William Chapman’s current term, and that of Tom Farley, will expire in June. The names of Chapman, Best, Patricia Egan, Robert Nichols and Geoffrey Parker will appear on the ballot for those seats, with the top two vote-getters winning election.

“I think Maine Media Workshops and College [is offering] a nice option,” said Best.

The Rockport Select Board voted May 9 to appoint a negotiation team to enter into discussions with Maine Media Workshops and College regarding the future of the former Rockport Elementary School property at the corner of Route 1 and West Street.

Best said an offer made by Yachting Solutions to purchase the property for use as a boatyard was also a good option.

He said it could not be preserved as a monument to the memories of townspeople.

“I went to school there the year it opened,” said Best. “It was the new school then. It was a big deal.”

Best was born in Rockport during World War II. His grandparents are from Rockport. He moved back full time in 1971. He previously served on the Select Board and has been chairman of that body.

Best said the RES East property “deteriorates every day,” and that the town needed to “get someone to do something with the property.”

“It’s a sensitive subject,” he said.

“Not making a choice is still making a choice,” said Best. “Eventually it will fall into the ground.”

He said that while some residents touted the idea of building a new library at the site, the majority of those responding to a survey and the consensus of the Library Committee was to keep that facility where it is for the time being.

“[The library] is the center of town,” said Best.

Best said he thought action taken by the Select Board April 11, and reversed May 9, to not renew the town manager’s contract for unspecified reasons, was “pretty disgraceful.”

“I think [Select Board member Dale Landrith’s] comment at the end of the meeting — that it had nothing to do with performance — proves that it was a personal matter,” he said.

“Everyone that’s been involved in this matter understands that there’s been a problem between [Select Board member Tom Farley] and [Town Manager Robert Peabody] regarding Tom’s unwillingness to get a permit for his pool and road,” said Best.

“It had nothing to do with the town manager,” he said. “The inability of Dale and [Select Board member Alexandra Fogel] to recognize that there was a conflict is beyond understanding.”

“You can’t just fire somebody because you don’t like them. There has to be a performance-based reason,” said Best.

He said a performance review should be done each year in January and hasn’t been done yet this year.

“The whole process is absurd,” he said “I’ve had people call from out of town who have seen the YouTube video [of the April 11 meeting] and ask me what in the world is going on.”

Best said Farley should not have served on the board.

“He has signed a document that said he was in violation of the charter,” said Best.

Best said government was about doing the most good for the most people. He said citizens bring their concerns about larger issues into their work for the town.

“The town of Rockport’s budget is balanced,” said Best. “Our roads are probably the best in Knox County.”

“People need to have faith in government, that they’re doing the best job they can. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money,” he said.

He said in his own business he buys oil and other supplies for his lobsterboat in the spring when such things are on sale.

“It’s an expense I don’t want right then, but it will save me money,” he said. “Rockport does that with fuel oil.” He said the town buys in bulk with other communities.

Best said development and renovation of the Shepherd Block, in Rockport’s downtown, were steps in the right direction.

“Problems with parking won’t go away,” said Best.

He said strip malls were destructive.

“There has to be a better way.” he said. “Route 1 was never designed for that type of development.”

Best said water and sewer lines should be connected between Rockport and Glen Cove and on Route 90 out to Route 17.

“Route 90 is as much of a gateway as Route 1, but I don’t want to see strip malls,” said Best. “Businesses are fine but you can’t put more businesses in places where you don’t have parking.”

Best said building up the village in West Rockport was a good idea.

“We’ve had success with the comprehensive plan,” he said. “It goes back to the thing about telling people what they can do with their property. That’s hard to swallow, but it’s the only way to protect what you have.”

He said design standards worked well in the village area but that he didn’t want things to be over-regulated.

Best said residents of Rockport’s many neighborhoods already think of the community as one town.

“Over time, what’s happened is that some areas have felt left out of some improvements,” he said.

Best said he did not expect to see Rockport and Camden merging public safety departments.

“It’s two different communities,” he said. “The needs of Camden are not the needs of Rockport. Rockport is spread out and rural. Camden has a downtown and traffic and is more transient.” He said dispatch services might be consolidated and that the towns’ public works departments have shared equipment in the past.

Best is a lobsterman and a former educator. He taught fifth and sixth grade and was a school principal for 16 years in Swanville, Georgetown and Bristol.

“I’m glad there’s a crowd [of Select Board candidates],” he said. “For too many years we’ve had no interest.”

“People used to sit and talk,” he said. “Now they watch TV. People used to go to public suppers. That was their entertainment. There was an exchange of ideas.”

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.

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