Mary E. Taylor building deserves thorough review

Jul 13, 2017

When Camden and Rockport voters rejected an initial $28 million plan for a new middle school in February 2015, the proposal included plans to renovate the Mary E. Taylor facility for use by the district as Central Office space and for Zenith, the district's alternative education program.

Following the 2015 vote, the district heard from taxpayers that one of the reasons for the failure was that the price tag was too high. So in a cost-cutting measure, renovation plans for the MET building were scrapped when a $25 million bond question was brought forward — and approved — at the polls in June.

District officials said they approached the town in January 2016 to see if it would be interested in taking ownership of the facility, but a decision was postponed and ultimately never made. The School Board then voted in December to tear MET down.

We are pleased to see a thorough discussion taking place about whether to demolish or renovate the historic building. The original Camden Grade School was constructed in 1925 and shortly thereafter was renamed Mary E. Taylor School.

School Administrative District 28 has organized a special meeting for today, Thursday, July 13, at 6 p.m. to continue discussing what to do with the building. The meeting will be held in the cafeteria at Camden-Rockport Middle School.

Camden has a dire need for office space, and an earlier plan this year to move the Zenith program from the Bus Barn to the former Seton School on Free Street has not come to fruition. It would be a perfect solution if an area developer could take on the renovation and then lease the space to the district, the town, or both — solving many needs of the town and the school district and saving an historic building at the same time. The question is, is there a developer willing to take on this project? If so, please come forward and make your intent known to the public.

Superintendent Maria Libby says in a column in this edition [see "Truth be told about MET"] that a decision must be made by October, because that is when the architects need to know the exact layout of the campus.

"We have oriented our athletic fields on the proper axis regarding the sun without the MET building on site, but that would likely need to change if the MET building stands," Libby says in the column. "That is also when the architects need to know how close the new building needs to be to the tree line, affecting the loading dock area. Whether MET stands or not is likely to impact the location and layout of the playground area."

At tonight's meeting, all options will be on the table. The board will discuss the possibility of renovating the building for district use, the possibility of transferring ownership to the town with restrictions, whether to sell to a private entity with restrictions or to demolish the building, but salvage parts of it. A final decision may be made at this meeting.

If a decision is made that varies from what was approved by voters last month, it will have to go back to the polls in November.

Even if the ultimate decision is made to tear it down and incorporate some aspects into the new facility, at least voices will have been heard and the community as a whole will have made the best choice — not simply a few people at a Select Board or School Board table.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Eric H Kangas | Jul 19, 2017 13:50

Doug, I keep using the Customs House/Post Office as a prime example of what we should not follow. Ken Crane told me it was the worst decision he made because once gone forever gone.

Posted by: Matthew Dailey | Jul 18, 2017 13:16

Mr Sukeforth is correct in that it will require a vote by the towns of Camden and Rockport for the Mary E Taylor building to NOT be demolished as part of construction of the new middle school. The question on the ballot to approve the construction bond read, in part, "...The Project budget includes the following elements:...b. Demolition of the existing middle school facility...". The Mary E Taylor building is part of the existing middle school facility so, in order to leave it standing, the voters would have to approve the exception to the bond question approved in last June.

The June ballot can be viewed here:

Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Jul 18, 2017 11:00

If not mistaken the vote was that all buildings were to be demolished and new school built.  So if it passed, which it did, then to now come out and say the school can be saved would have to go to another vote wouldn't it?  I find it difficult to comprehend how taxpayers/voters were told the old building could not be saved, too much money to repair and bring to code, but now we have Stuart saying it could be done for $1.5 million? Me thinks someone is wrong, but which one?  All I know is my evaluation of my house went down but taxes will increase.  What a wonderful life!

Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Jul 17, 2017 15:49

At what cost do you want to preserve some history of your town? There are many ideas that could be used to preserve the school. What would it mean to future generations 500-1,000 years from now? Rockland razed its post office. I don't think we would do that again if we had to do it all over. I hope long time Camden residents will speak up. You have plenty of time to decide and I don't think a few ball fields should be the deciding factor.

Posted by: Eric H Kangas | Jul 13, 2017 14:42

I sincerely hope that the school board defers any vote until later. The wheels are turning on which direction the communities want to go to preserve this historic building and have it compliment the middle school.

Posted by: Alison S McKellar | Jul 13, 2017 11:40

Dale- I too believe that the voters have made it clear that they don't want to put more money into the Mary Taylor building. What I don't think is clear is whether we are willing to pay hundreds of thousands to demolish the building if there is a private party that would like to take ownership of it,  renovate it by taking advantage of deep tax credits for historical preservation, and potentially return it to the tax rolls as a revenue source for the town.

Posted by: Dale E. Landrith Sr. | Jul 13, 2017 07:43

I believe that the voters have indicated that putting any additional funds into MET building should not be done.  If relocation of fields or buildings must be done to keep the MET building then right at the beginning of the new school project we increase costs.

If you wish to comment, please login.