Open letter to MSAD 28 School Board

The Camden Historic Resources Committee, which has the responsibility to advise the Select Board on certain matters concerning historic properties and historic resources as they pertain to the town, strongly recommends the MSAD 28 School Board abandon thoughts of demolishing the Mary E. Taylor Building and, instead, focus on ideas for repurposing the historic building. As a group, we oppose the destruction of the MET building.

The Mary E. Taylor School is one of Camden’s best-known buildings and represents our legacy and commitment to quality education. It is a great source of pride to many of our citizens who attended MET, taught or worked at MET, or had children who attended MET. Maintaining the Mary Taylor School as a resource and a neighborhood anchor connecting the town to its past can be a catalyst for community pride and revitalization.

Many citizens who voted favorably for the June 2017 bond issue were voting for a new middle school facility they believed was necessary, but they also believed that the MET building would be reconsidered and eventually valued and saved. Now, because of the restrictions placed by the school administrative body on the potential uses of the building, it appears that no serious consideration is being given to the future of the building, other than getting rid of it. The Historic Resources Committee believes this is a mindset that prevents forthright and fair conversation going forward.

Since the well-constructed building is in good physical condition, it appears that a satisfactory use for the building could be determined if time were afforded to honestly consider and identify alternative uses. As sustainability is one of our town’s current focuses, what better example of sustainability than repurposing a perfectly viable building?

Might the Historic Resources Committee suggest the town of Camden consider part of the building as a place for collecting all of the town’s vital records, historic resources and documents to create a safe and proper repository and archive to house all of these materials, which are currently scattered among at least three locations? Just a thought, perhaps including a history museum. We’re sure there are many creative and possible uses for so venerable a building.

In any case, the Historic Resources Committee concurs with Maine Preservation and its designation of the Mary E. Taylor School as one of the most endangered historic places in Maine, and we recommend taking more time to consider constructive options. We urge other groups and individuals to join us in persuading the School Board to loosen its restrictions and objectively open its mind to consider other ideas beyond the removal of the building.

Because the School Board has stated it has heard from few citizens, we urge residents to voice their desires for the MET building by contacting the MSAD 28 board members at sadpass@fivetowns.net and Superintendent Maria Libby at maria.libby@fivetowns.net.

Rosalee Glass, Elinor Klivans, Judith McGuirk, Kristin Mikkelsen, Susan Neves, Beedy Parker, Dawna Pine, Patricia Skaling

Camden Historic Resources Committee

 

School Board responds

This is a response to the Camden Historic Resources Committee’s “An open letter to the SAD 28 School Board.”

In June, 2017 the voters of Camden and Rockport approved funding for a proposal to build a new middle school and demolish the existing middle school. The proposal did not include a plan to preserve or renovate any part of the existing facility, and as such the funding approved by the voters cannot be used for that purpose. If the Mary E. Taylor building is to be saved, then a source of funding will need to be secured to make it viable for the building to have a life after having been part of the middle school. Any voter who "believed that the MET building would be reconsidered and eventually valued and saved" should not be surprised that without funding the MET building does not have a future, no matter how noble a purpose is imagined for it.

From the open letter, the statement "… [because of] the restrictions placed by the school administrative body on the potential uses of the building, it appears that no serious consideration is being given to the future of the building…" baffles me. The School Board will consider all proposals fairly. The board published guidelines for proposals for the future use of the Mary E Taylor building in July. If you read them, you will find that there is no language that prevents potential future uses of the MET building.

The only statement that impacts a potential use is "Because the MET building would be in close proximity to the new middle school, the proposal must permit MSAD 28 to place reasonable use/activity restrictions on the MET property." This is quite reasonable and it is hardly restrictive, considering the potential uses are already constrained by the applicable zoning laws. The goal of the restrictions is to ensure that anyone making a proposal is complying with the law, has the necessary expertise to execute their plan and has the financial means to do so. These are not extraordinary requirements, and anyone who is not able to demonstrate the capability to achieve them should be rightly disqualified from being responsible for the future of the building.

From the open letter, the statement, "Since the well-constructed building is in good physical condition, it appears that a satisfactory use for the building could be determined if time were afforded to honestly consider and identify alternative uses," overestimates the condition of the building and underestimates the urgency in needing to make a decision about its future. The MET building was long ago integrated into the whole of the middle school facility and it depends on the connection to the rest of the middle school for power, heat and to act as part of one of its walls.

The moment that the rest of the middle school is demolished, it is not fair to say that the MET building is in good physical condition, even excusing the lack of power and heat, when it will have a significant part of one wall that will be open to the elements. It will take work to just make the building function as a standalone structure. This is why time is not plentiful. If the MET building is not to be demolished, then whoever takes responsibility for it needs to start work when the rest of the middle school is demolished.

Hiring, bidding, permitting, planning, grant writing, fundraising, legal opinions and voter approvals will all take time. It has been nearly three years since the voters of Camden and Rockport refused funding for a middle school proposal that included MET building renovations. It has been nearly two years since the Camden Select Board declined any interest in using the building. It has been nearly a year since the School Board voted to demolish the building. It has been nearly six months since the School Board voted to consider other options for the future of the MET building. Time has been afforded to honestly consider and identify alternative uses.

The School Board is currently in the process of reconsidering the options for the future of the Mary E Taylor building.

I truly do hope that some group or individual proposes a solution that saves the MET building to the benefit of the community However, it is just not realistic to expect that that reconsideration continue without end. Eventually the cost of waiting will fall onto the property owners of Camden and Rockport, which is not a reasonable outcome. It would be irresponsible for the School Board to allow that to happen.

If the Historic Resources Committee wants to propose a use for the MET building, then it is welcome to. Proposals are being accepted until Nov. 30. The guidelines for proposals can be found at: https://knox.villagesoup.com/p/1671247

Matt Dailey

MSAD 28 Board Chair

 

Time to replace Poliquin

Once again, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, has voted to benefit millionaires (including himself) at the expense of the rest of us. If the recently passed House Tax Bill becomes law, you will have fewer deductions and will pay more taxes. If you are on Medicare or Medicaid, get ready for cuts in benefits.

Bruce Poliquin represents those who donate lots of money to his reelection campaign. He’s not a fiscal conservative, he’s a rich guy turning this country into a wealthy aristocracy. If you always vote Republican, perhaps it’s time to look for an alternative to Bruce Poliquin.

Janet Redfield

Lincolnville

 

The only one that matters

When President Donald Trump was criticized for leaving so many top positions throughout the federal government unfilled, and especially for systematically dismantling the State Department, he replied that there was no problem because "I am the only one that matters."

This response perfectly encapsulates his approach to governance based upon his extreme narcissism. A French king famously proclaimed, " L'etat c'est moi" before a revolution swept away the monarchy. Trump's claim of royal prerogative is comparable.

What need of diplomats, scientists, experts, experienced civil servants? Trump runs the federal government like a family grocery store, as if he and his kids and cronies can carry out all necessary tasks. The only constants in this White House are ignorance, boastful self-inflation and mendacity. The most dismaying and dangerous aspect of our current situation is that Trump is, indeed, "the only one that matters."

James Matlack

Rockport

 

Speak up on behalf of Yemen's people

I grew up in the Midcoast region, but have spent the last three years working abroad in the humanitarian aid sector. This has opened my eyes to tragedies across the world that seemed very remote in rural Maine. None of them troubles me as deeply as the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the distant Arab nation of Yemen.

The United Nations estimates that 7 million people are at immediate risk of starvation in Yemen, including 50,000 children before year’s end. This is not caused by a drought or crop failure, but rather by the deliberate actions of America’s ally Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are bombing and blockading Yemen into famine in order to force that country’s Houthi rebels to surrender.

These actions involve grave violations of international law and legislation, such as the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, which forbids foreign actors from blocking American humanitarian aid. Yet despite this fact, our government has continued selling the Saudis bombs and refueling their fighter jets. Today Washington is doing nothing to end the blockade that threatens so many innocent lives, even though it has huge influence over the Saudis.

If this is to change, there must be a constituency for a different policy. But Maine voters, like most Americans, have limited knowledge of the Yemen crisis. However, the Midcoast region has a famous expert community with deep experience in diplomacy, intelligence and academia, including in the Middle East. This is why our small region can support such prestigious institutions as the Camden Conference.

I represent a citizen initiative called Maine for Yemen, and we appeal to members of the Midcoast foreign policy community to use their voice to inform and engage Mainers about the crisis in Yemen. We would be pleased to collaborate with any individuals or groups prepared to do so.

Brian Milakovsky

Somerville

 

Church says thanks for successful craft fair

Saturday, Nov. 18, the John Street United Methodist Church hosted a vendor craft sale with 18 tables. The swarm of shoppers were pleased with the variety of items that included whimsical bark carvings a la Hobbit dwellings, handmade soaps, painted glassware, felted Christmas ornaments, glittery scarves, quilting, unique crafted gifts for pets, with all proceeds going to animal rescue, original handbags made with fabric woven by workers at Coastal Opportunities, amusing and practical baby accessories, exquisite jewelry of silver, copper, aluminum or antique buttons, notepapers, photo cards, knit goods and a variety of handmade soaps and lotions.

Thanks to everyone who supported this event that benefited the sellers, the shoppers and John Street Church’s outreach to local missions.

Jean Boobar, chair

Camden