Rockport Select Board Chairman William Chapman said a solution to the future of the former Rockport Elementary School East site was well in hand.

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

“It would be really ideal to have Maine Media Workshops and College in there,” said Chapman. “It’s a school. The [property at the corner of Route 1 and West Street] has been a school for more than half a century.”

“Their proposal included retaining the ball field,” he said.

He said the delay caused by the Select Board’s April 19 vote to not put a decision before voters on the June town meeting ballot gave Maine Media time to build support for the move.

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.

Chapman said Maine Media had concerns about the facility and wanted an indication from the Select Board that Rockport would not pursue other possible tenants or purchasers for the property while answers to their questions are being sought.

“I don’t know if we will go so far as to negotiate a price,” said Chapman. “That would be a good idea, and then we can take the whole package to the voters in November.”

In response to action taken by the Select Board, and then reversed, to not renew the town manager’s contract for unspecified reasons, Chapman said he didn’t like the first decision.

“I felt it was the wrong decision to make,” he said. “It was rushed. We, as a whole board, did not have time to evaluate it.”

Chapman said the board has had several discussions about whether a businessman with contracts from the town is eligible to serve on the Select Board.

He said that, in the case of Tom Farley, he didn’t think Farley’s eligibility or possible bias to vote on Peabody’s contract had been settled.

“Here in Rockport [the purpose of government is] to provide for the safety of our citizens,” said Chapman. “Police, fire, proper maintenance of roads and a number of other functions have been placed on the town by state mandate. We have a number of other functions that we choose.”

As examples, he mentioned parks and recreation, and the library.

“Those are decisions of the government,” he said. “They are what the electorate wants.”

“[Rockport] is a developing community. It had been stagnant for a number of years and now it’s moving.” He said Rockport now has a vibrant downtown.

“We’re more than a bedroom for Camden,” said Chapman. “Some people have said ‘That’s all you are.’ We’ve got a lot of business and some industry and I’m glad we have it.”

“I see us as the crossroads of the Midcoast,” he said. He said changing traffic patterns could present problems in the future.

“When Gateway 1 died, I was sorry,” said Chapman. “It was a good vehicle for helping the communities talk to each other. It wasn’t there to force one community to do anything. It was just a formal structure for talking.”

“We were also going to get a little money to do an engineering study to extend the sewer,” he said.

Chapman said one of the findings of the Gateway 1 preliminary study was that communities needed to identify areas for development.

“Rockville Street and Route 1 is a development area,” he said. “If we put the sewer there we could encourage growth in that area. What we don’t want is a lot of strip malls along Route 1.”

Chapman said the variation between developed areas and rural scenes was one of the beauties of Rockport.

Chapman said the town’s comprehensive plan was still valid.

“We haven’t done everything that’s recommended,” he said. “It’s the basis for doing zoning.”

Chapman said he wasn’t sure Rockport should try to unify its diverse neighborhoods.

“We are separate villages within the town and all have their distinct personalities,” he said. “They’re all part of Rockport.”

“I think we’re going to eventually [consolidate public safety functions with Camden],” said Chapman. “I don’t think we want to yet. There’s a mindset that Camden and Rockport are distinctly different from each other.”

“You’ve got to remember, Camden kicked us out,” he said, referring to the separation of the towns that took place more than 100 years ago.

“We already are semi-combined in that we have a mutual aid agreement,” Chapman said. “If they need assistance we provide it on police and fire, and vice versa. There’s a lot of cooperation done.”

He said an earlier study on merging public safety departments recommended the hiring of an additional staff member.

“One of the things I’ve been working on is the Midcoast Solid Waste Corporation board,” said Chapman. “We’ve been meeting with a number of other facilities on a periodic basis and we’re looking at regionalization and how to approach that. Eventually the landfills here are going to be filled.”

He said there was also a bigger opportunity in regard to dealing with compostable materials such as kitchen and yard waste.

“We don’t have a facility at MCSW, but maybe Rockland would be able to set aside a spot,” he said.

He said MCSW has improved.

“We’ve gotten costs under control and odor problems under control,” he said. “Now we have a scale to provide accurate readings.” Chapman said that a hike in the price of bags has reduced the amount to be paid by taxes.

“If you’re good at recycling, you keep your costs well under control,” he said.

Chapman said the past year as chairman of the Select Board gave him an opportunity to learn more about the people who work for the town.

“They are the face that people see, particularly when they come into the town office,” he said.

Chapman said members of the Public Works Department are always friendly.

“You can’t treat them as though they’re in a vacuum,” he said, quoting a statement made by board member Tracy Murphy that town workers are “not interchangeable plugs on a pegboard.”

Chapman is the Select Board’s liaison with the Library Committee and the Ordinance Review Committee.

“I love living here,” said Chapman. “I think we’re the jewel of the jewel of the Midcoast.”

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at

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