Future of Mary E. Taylor building may go to vote

By Louis Bettcher | Jun 19, 2017
Photo by: Louis Bettcher Chairman Matt Dailey, center, and members of the SAD 28 Board answer questions from the public about the future of the Mary E. Taylor building June 15 at Camden-Rockport Middle School.

Camden — Some 25 members of the public attended the School Administrative District 28 Board meeting June 15 to raise questions about the future of the Mary E. Taylor building.

Following the June 13 vote by residents of Camden and Rockport in favor of constructing a new Camden-Rockport Middle School at the current Knowlton Street location, some members of the public expressed concern that the MET building, built in 1925, was of historical significance and should not be demolished as part of the rebuild. The MET building is one of a number of structures, dating back to the '60s and '70s, that comprise the existing middle school.

The approved $25 million bond article includes the construction of a new, turn-key facility on the site. The need for the new middle school was expressed through statements by the School Board, School Superintendent Maria Libby, the Building Vision Committee and by faculty and parents, who cited a multitude of structural, safety and navigational problems with the existing school.

A previous bond article for a new Camden-Rockport Middle School had included costs to renovate the MET building, but failed at the polls. At the June 15 meeting, members of the school board said the cost to demolish the building would be approximately $200,000 and the cost to renovate would be between $3 and $4 million.

"I believe strongly that this is an historic building. I grew up here, I went to school here... and I think that keeping this building intact and alive is very important to myself and a lot of people in the community," said Eric Kangas. Kangas said he felt that many people who voted in favor of the bond article did not, however, approve the idea of MET being torn down.

One option the school board has considered is to move the Zenith program and administrative offices, which are currently housed in the Bus Barn, into the MET building, if it were to be renovated. The remaining space in MET could then be used for something else, including space that could be rented to a private business.

Chairman Matt Dailey said demolition of existing facilities on the Knowlton Street campus is scheduled for the summer of 2020. Board member Peter Orne pointed out that once the buildings connected to it are torn down, MET will be without electricity and heat.

"We can't just let that building sit; there are structural issues that would have to be maintained. Even if we deferred the decision [to demolish] and keep the building, without heat it will deteriorate in months. Any option going forward with that building is going to be quite expensive," said Orne.

Board member Kristin Collins said it would be less expensive to construct a new building for the offices currently held in the Bus Barn than to renovate the MET building and relocate them. Further, whether or not the MET building remains standing has direct implications on the site orientation of the new middle school.

"The new middle school location depends on whether or not [MET] is standing: it will either be built right up to the woods behind the property, or be set 30 feet away from the woods [if the MET building is gone]," said Libby.

Audience members suggested the building could be turned over to the Town of Camden, or that it could be used by a business or preserved through a fundraising campaign. Dailey pointed out if the MET building is not demolished as planned, and remains on the school campus, a public vote will be required.

"We did have a legal opinion today which said that based on the wording of the bond, if we didn't want to knock down the MET building, we would have to go out to referendum again. If it is to be preserved, we have to go out to vote regardless," said Dailey.

Libby said last year she and members of the school board approached the Camden Select Board with the news MET may be demolished as part of the middle school bond question. Little interest was expressed by the selectmen, who deferred making a decision on the building and said they "didn't want to interfere" in the process.

"We wanted people to know that there was something that might happen that would put that building at stake. I would love to save it, but we have got to get a proposal that for the Select Board while it's sitting on our campus," said Libby. She and other school board members stressed the importance of having some control over what kind of private business or use the MET building would serve because it is located directly on the new school's campus.

"I think that the Select Board had their hand stuck in the sand about the situation with MET," said incoming Camden Select Board member Alison McKellar. "Give us a deadline for the town to look at it again or to come up with a proposal. I think we're being overly-concerned about the use of a building near the school. We have no control over the businesses near Camden-Rockport Elementary School, and we can't control who lives on Knowlton Street."

Over the past several months members of the school board and the Building Vision Committee have suggested ways of incorporating elements of the MET building into a new school. One idea involves using part of rebuilding the original facade and granite "Camden Grade School" marker in the entryway of the new middle school.

The next meeting of the SAD 28 School Board will be held Wednesday, June 21 as an initial planning meeting regarding construction of the new school. The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the Bus Barn. There will also be a discussion about setting the date for a board workshop where the future of the MET building will be the sole subject.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article mentioned that further discussion of the MET building would take place at the June 21 School Board meeting. The article has been updated to reflect the most recent information from School Board Chairman Matt Dailey.

Courier Publications reporter Louis Bettcher can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at lbettcher@villagesoup.com.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Matthew Dailey | Jul 11, 2017 10:32

It would be less expensive to build new because the district would not construct a 24,000 square foot building to meet the needs of the central office and Zenith programs. Less square feet means less cost.

Also, the estimated cost for demolition of the MET building is $200,000.



Posted by: Eric H Kangas | Jul 11, 2017 00:10

Kristin Collins said it would be less expensive?  By the inflated numbers we are still looking at $115 per square foot and not the $300 plus for a new building. And, we would save the $500k of tear down and recreation.



Posted by: Matthew Dailey | Jun 19, 2017 13:58

Please be advised that the MSAD 28 workshop at 5:30 on the 21st is an initial planning meeting about the construction of the new school and will not include a discussion about the MET building. There will be a discussion about setting the date for a board workshop where the future of the MET building will be the sole subject.

The agenda for the workshop on the 21st can be found here: http://www.fivetowns.net//content/062117%20MSAD%2028%20Workshop%20Agenda.pdf

All are welcome to attend.



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