A new committee is in the process of acquiring members to oversee and help develop a multi-use or repurposing concept for the Mary E. Taylor building on Knowlton Street in Camden.

A charter for the MET Repurposing Committee was presented to members of the MSAD 28 School Board on Feb. 14. MSAD 28 includes the Camden-Rockport Elementary School as well as the Camden-Rockport Middle School. The MET building, which is part of the existing CRMS facility, sits on the property where a new middle school will be constructed, which is expected to open in September of 2020.

The charter states that the Repurposing Committee is empowered by the MSAD 28 Board of Directors, and will be comprised of 8 members: three School Board members, three community members, a representative of the Camden-Rockport Middle School and a representative from the Zenith program, an alternative education program for students and grades 10-12.

One possibility of repurposing the building is that it could house Zenith, which is currently located off-site in the Bus Barn on the CRMS campus. School Board members Peter Orne, Carole Gartley and Marcia Dietrich are expected to serve on the Repurposing Committee.

The School Board unanimously approved the charter at the Wednesday night, meeting in the atrium of the Camden-Rockport Elementary School. One amendment to the charter before going to a vote was that the word "potentially" was added to one of the committee's outlined goals:

"Developing a proposal to repurpose the MET building primarily for district(s) use that includes potentially housing the Central Office, the Zenith program, and potentially the day time Adult Ed. program."

The charter states that members of the Repurposing Committee will work with architects from Oak Point Associates as well as school administrators to develop the concept for the renovation and use of the MET. The findings of this committee and the proposal by Oak Point Associates will go before voters in November 2018. If the referendum question to repurpose the building is not approved by voters, the building will be demolished.

Oak Point Associates was tasked with designing the new middle school. The proposal that a $26 million structure to be built on Knowlton Street appeared as a ballot initiative in June of 2017 and was passed overwhelmingly by voters in Camden and Rockport.

The formation of the MET Repurposing Committee resulted from a decision by the School Board on Jan. 24  to seek a cost estimate from Oak Point Associates to turn the MET building into a "multi-use" building for the school district.

On Jan. 10 the School Board had voted against an offer by real estate developer Michael Mullins to repurpose the MET to house a community workshop and offer classes in trades such as wood and metalworking. The fate of the 1920s brick structure has been a source of debate over the past several months.

The preliminary 2018-2019 MSAD 28 budget includes $40,000 for creating the MET proposal and expenses involved with placing a referendum on the November ballot. One of the charges of the new committee is that they will determine the feasibility of a variety of alternative uses for the basement of the building, and whether it could be renovated to house private entities. The committee will report their findings and final recommendation to the School Board.

"If feasible uses for the basement are identified, explore, evaluate and try to secure a favorable lease for future use prior to the referendum," reads the charter, which also states that any proposals for the building should be sensitive to cost, safety, accessibility and environmental concerns.

The expectation of the committee is that they will present a concept design and a detailed cost estimate by August. 1, and will approach a cost estimation firm to provide an independent estimate of costs to repurpose the building. The first meeting of the MET Repurposing Committee is expected to take place in March.