The Nov. 30 deadline for proposals to preserve the Mary E. Taylor building on Knowlton Street, may be the beginning of a new role for the 100-year-old school building.

The SAD 28 School Board announced in late July that it was "willing to review firm proposals to preserve the MET building," following public comments at meetings, and in writing, from citizens interested in preserving the building. Momentum in favor of preserving MET came from citizens concerned that the building could be demolished, following the passage of the referendum vote in June to build a new middle school.

SAD 28 Superintendent Maria Libby documented the history of the building's status over the past few years in a column "Truth be told about MET" published in The Camden Herald in July:

  • In June 2015, voters defeated a $28-million-dollar referendum to build a new middle school building and renovate MET to house the school district's central office and the Zenith program.
  • Following the defeat, the School Board conducted focus groups and a listening tour, hearing from around 250 residents, according to Libby. The feedback was that the price of the school project was too high.
  • The school district revised the school building plan, with the MET renovation removed. In Jan. 2016, Libby wrote to the Camden Select Board, "to determine if the town had any interest in the MET building, should the school not need it." The Select Board did not issue a formal response.
  • In Dec. 2016, the School Board voted to demolish the MET building along with the rest of the facility, with the proviso that the entrance to the building would be salvaged and incorporated into the new building.
  • Public discussion about preserving the MET building began about a month before the June 2017 referendum vote. The board agreed to reconsider the decision to demolish the building.
  • On June 13, voters approved a $26-million-dollar referendum to build a new middle school.

About 25 members of the public attended a June 15 School Board meeting to reconsider demolition of MET. At that meeting, Libby confirmed that the district's attorneys determined a public vote would be required on any proposal regarding the MET building, because the June 13 referendum specified existing buildings would be demolished.

On July 13, about 50 residents attended a well publicized special meeting of the School Board regarding the MET building. At that meeting, the board gave interested groups the go-ahead to come up with concrete proposals for saving the MET building. On July 24, the board issued a public statement announcing the Nov. 30 deadline for proposals, and outlined requirements.

On Aug. 9, a joint Camden Select Board and School Board meeting was held. At that meeting, Libby maintained that the School Board had jurisdiction over the MET property, and would make the decision on any eligible proposals received.

Freedom of Information Request

In November, a private citizen, Maggie Timmerman, of Rockport, who submitted a Freedom of Access Act request to SAD 28 requesting all emails and documents pertaining to discussions about the MET building, conveyed her concerns to the Camden and Rockport select boards.

On Nov. 14, Timmerman forwarded a 64-page document containing selected emails and documentation she received as result of her information request, along with a cover letter, to Camden and Rockport select boards.

Timmerman lists the concerns that led to her request for information as "conflicting statements by school leadership before and after" the June 2017 middle school vote, and a failure "to adequately explain to the community" that MET would not be part of the middle school project and would be demolished.

In her cover letter, Timmerman states that "the emails acquired through the FOAA reveal troubling details behind the successful public relations campaign that bolstered the successful June vote," but does not state which emails led to that conclusion.

She asks the select boards to have their legal counsels review the information provided by SAD 28 as a result of her information request, "and provide a recommendation to their respective Select Boards" and to "strongly encourage full transparency of the MSAD 28 and CSD 15 School Boards, including recording and/or livestreaming of meetings."

On Nov. 17, Libby sent all of the documentation sent by SAD 28 to Timmerman to Camden and Rockport select boards, along with her own cover letter. According to Libby, Timmerman received nearly 900 pages of documents from SAD 28.

In her cover letter, Libby characterizes Timmerman as someone who did not attend any "school board meetings, public hearings, or other public events where district personnel presented information about the project or vote," and who specifically did not attend meetings "focused on the MET building in June or July of 2017."

In Libby's cover letter, she refers to her "Truth be Told" article, as an example of the transparency exhibited by school officials. In that article, Libby stated "that the plan to exclude MET from the new middle school proposal was mentioned at eight 'CRMS Middle Matters' presentations at community forums and select board meetings in 2016."