Pick a plan for A.D. Gray and go for it

Jul 30, 2020

The town of Waldoboro should jump on the opportunity to develop, preserve and keep alive the A.D. Gray school building, with two potential development projects being proposed.

Watching the situation in Midcoast Maine in recent decades, we see it can be difficult to find good tenants for old school buildings. The Lincoln Street School in Rockland and the Thompson Community Center in Union have both seen challenges over the years.

We have heard many times arguments that these old buildings would make good community centers, but renovating them and maintaining them over time takes the kind of capital that a business can best provide.

Volunteers of America presented their tentative plan for 32 senior housing units to the planning board meeting July 15.

Another plan for development presented to the board in September was a mixed-use development including residential, office and commercial uses. This project, named “Waldoboro Heights” and presented by Tim Wells, involves market rate housing.

At a passing glance, the Volunteers of America plan sounds best. Too often we see “if you build it they will come” projects to provide mixed uses, but the reality is that there is not much demand in the midcoast for office and commercial space, especially in that area. The mixed use project may never come together, while the plan for senior housing sounds thought-out and meets a real need.

Brian Sites, Vice President of Business Development for Volunteers of America, said the company was interested in pursuing the project because they do not currently operate any senior housing between their Topsham and Thomaston locations.

Sites said community support for the project was also very important to Volunteers of America. “The last thing that we want to do is put a 45-year commitment in the middle of your town and you guys hate it,” he said. “This is about having a community dialogue and making sure we’re all in this together.”

If this follows the usual pattern, neighbors will begin to voice concerns about the project. We have yet to see a project neighbors want in their back yards around here.

But an old building like that gathering dust is bad for property values and potentially a safety hazard over time.

Pick a plan that will work for the community and the building while the opportunity exists.

Turn on the lights, lock your doors, stay safe

We are fortunate to have Rockland Police Chief Christopher Young, who makes himself accessible to the community to help deal with problems in the area.

Young met with 18 residents July 16 to talk about a series of burglaries, attempted break-ins, and thefts from cars. Councilor and candidate Valli Geiger also deserves her share of the credit for helping organize the meeting.

Young advised residents to call police if they see anything suspicious, and said additional exterior lighting can help deal with a spate of break-ins in a city neighborhood.

There are no suspects in the case, but Chief Young said through his experience as a police officer for more than 24 years, including 15 years as a detective, he believes the suspect or suspects live in the neighborhood or regularly pass by it on the way to their home.

"I'm a big fan of lighting. It's proactive. Bad guys like to hide in the dark," he said.

He also urged people to lock their cars and their homes, both during the day and night.

Nationally last year, only 15% of burglary cases were solved with an arrest while in Rockland last year, the clearance rate for burglaries was 37%.

While residents should do what they can to stay safe, we also urge citizens not to panic, take the law into their own hands, or judge passersby as threats unless they have good reason.

Open communication and partnership like this between our local police and residents can only stand to improve things.

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