On Jan. 24 the MSAD 28 School Board voted to approve a motion which would seek a cost estimate from Oak Point Associates to turn the Mary E. Taylor building on Knowlton Street into a "multi-use" building for the school district.

Approval for the project, and the fate of the Knowlton Street building, will ultimately lie in the hands of the public, when it appears as a referendum question in the November 2018 ballot in the towns of Camden and Rockport.

This seemed to be a change in the school board's position. Previously, School Board Chairman Matt Dailey had said the Mary E. Taylor school would be demolished as part of the plan approved by voters to build the new school.

On Jan. 10 the School Board had voted against an offer by real estate developer Michael Mullins to repurpose the Mary E. Taylor building to house a community workshop.

The fate of the 1920s brick structure has been a source of debate over the past several months, as citizens voiced concerns about the possible demolition of the building in preparation for building the new Camden-Rockport Middle School.

The board and Superintendent Maria Libby discussed the building's future: the positive opportunities it could present for offices or programming if renovated, versus the negative financial impact associated with rehabbing a building, which was in a state of disrepair, and keeping it on the premises of a new school.

Members of the board also said that if the MET building were to be occupied by any services or offices not included within the school system, a zoning change would be necessary.

Board member Peter Orne said that although he had no emotional attachment to the building, the 1920s structure had a number of possible uses, which could include administrative offices for MSAD 28, the Five Town CSD, space for the Gifted and Talented program as well as services for Pre-K students.

Orne made a motion to secure the MET building for future education-related use, but the motion failed for lack of a second.

Marcia Dietrich then made the motion to have Oak Point Associates draft a proposal that could be put before the voters to secure the MET building and allow the district to proceed with an MET multi-purpose building project.

Oak Point Associates will be tasked with creating a design budget. The superintendent was authorized to select an independent firm to prepare cost estimates for design and renovations to the former school building for use as a multi-purpose building by the district and possible other occupants. The superintendent was also authorized to initiate a Request-for-Proposal process to seek an architectural firm for the project.

Orne seconded the motion. The motion carried in a vote of 5-2. Orne, Dietrich, Lynda Chilton, Elizabeth Noble and Carole Gartley voted in favor of the motion, with Dailey and Becky Flanagan opposing it.

"It wasn't a foregone conclusion that we would be acting on this motion or that this motion would be read, because we have not discussed any of this; we only discuss at board meetings," said Gartley.

Dailey asked the board how they would explain their decision to move ahead with a vote to renovate MET with other costs looming in the community such as a renovation of the water treatment facility in Camden and a possible new construction at Camden Hills Regional High School.

"The reason we're doing this is because there's been a lot of community interest in saving the building, and we want the choice to go to voters," said Libby. "…Do we think it makes the most economic sense of any choice we have? The answer is no, but there are a lot of other reasons that clearly have been stated by the community… and it does give the choice to voters."

She said that if the option were approved by voters, architects would then go out to bid on the "buttoning-up" of the building, which will be left without heat or electrical systems when the remaining portions of the facility are torn down.

The new Camden-Rockport Middle School is scheduled to open in September of 2020.