Rockland code officer issues stop work order to vocational school

By Stephen Betts | Sep 10, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root posted this stop work notice on one of the posts for the fence being erected on the north side of the new Midcoast School of Technology.

Rockland — Rockland's code enforcement officer issued a stop work order Tuesday, Sept. 10, to the new $21.5 million regional vocational school after finding that a fence was being erected in violation of the school's conditional occupancy permit.

Code Officer John Root warned the Region 8 Cooperative Board that it risked fines of $2,500 per day and revocation of its temporary permit to use the building if it fails to comply with his order.

The school -- which serves 320 students daily from Newcastle to Islesboro -- opened last week. The grand opening ceremony had been held Monday, Sept. 9.

The construction of the fence and the stop work order escalate a dispute between Rockland and the school administration that has been going on for the past month. The dispute centers on whether the public can continue to have access to a waterfront trail in back of the school.

Root, who had a scheduled day off Tuesday, was alerted by a neighbor that the fence construction had resumed after a halt of several weeks. Root visited the site and found that fence posts were being erected toward the waterfront on the north side of the Midcoast School of Technology.

The code officer posted a pink stop work order on one of the fence posts. He also hand-delivered the stop work order to the administration office at the school. The school had applied for a permit for the fence, but the Rockland Planning Board directed that it not block public access along the waterfront.

At the Aug. 20 Planning Board meeting, the board voted to require the fence to be installed at the base of the man-made slope on the water side of the building, which would allow a path to be created on the water side of  the fence.

The code officer has yet to issue the permit for the fence.

But the day after the Planning Board meeting, the fence was being erected closer to the shore than what was directed by the board. After Root contacted the architect for the project, he agreed to hold off further work on the fence until after the Region 8 Cooperative Board met.

The Region 8 Board met Aug. 28 and Board Chair Jerry White said that school officials no longer planned to have a fence on the water side, but would extend the north and south side fences to the water, effectively blocking public access.

School Executive Director Elizabeth Fisher said Tuesday evening that she was out of the office Tuesday, but got a call from personnel at the school who were quite distressed that the code officer was "verbally unprofessional" with the staff and a contractor.

"It was my understanding from the city manager that we could put in the fence on the north border to the corner where the proposed layout turns to go along the east side, based on the vote taken at the Aug. 20 Planning Board meeting," Fisher stated in an email response to a request for comment Tuesday.

"We have put in temporary layout posts, but have installed no fencing on the east side until further discussions take place," she said.

Root, however, said the workers installing the fence told him Tuesday they were told to extend it to the waterfront.

The code officer said he was not unprofessional but was perturbed when he got there. He said he was going on vacation and had to take action Tuesday or the fence likely would have been completed when he returned. There is no assistant code officer.

Fisher maintained that temporary posts were also put in along a line that City Manager Tom Luttrell and she discussed that could leave room for a possible walking path.

"Those are the temporary posts which apparently caused the outcry last week. The fencing along the water side has been put on hold, so I am bewildered about whatever happened today and the basis for it. To my knowledge we have not installed fencing in any area that is under dispute," she said.

Fisher again said the fence was needed for student safety.

"What seems to be forgotten here is that the school's purpose and the property it sits on are designed for use as a public school. State law and board policy is quite specific about how students must be protected. All school personnel, by Maine law, must have background checks and be finger-printed. Visitors to the school during the school day must identify themselves and their purpose and are admitted based on an identified purpose. We cannot allow public access to our students and their learning spaces while they are in school. We have several programs that utilize the outside of the school. These activities include lessons by the design technology instructor on filming in a natural setting, lessons by the outdoor leadership instructor, the movement by students of vehicles, including boats to be brought in as part of their MDOE [Maine Department of Education] approved curriculum in automotive and marine trades," Fisher stated in her Sept. 10 email.

The school applied for the fence, as well as solar panels and an amphitheater this summer after determining there would be money left over from the construction project.

(Photo by: Stephen Betts)
(Photo by: Stephen Betts)
This was the ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the new Midcoast School of Technology Sept. 9. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
Comments (12)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 14, 2019 11:42

To the vo-tech board I have some suggested reading “ how to win friends and influence people “.  Beginning construction of a fence only serves as a means to stirr bad relations. Think it’s working ?

Posted by: Mid-Coast School of Technology | Sep 12, 2019 15:09

To be clear, NO fencing has been installed despite all of these dire proclamations. We have put in temporary fence posts that delineate two of the options discussed. These are easily movable to accommodate the final solution. We are discussing options with the town manager to try to resolve concerns including student safety and public access.If you want to have a discussion then lets please have it instead of this endless rock throwing in the press. Thanks

Posted by: Robert Stark | Sep 11, 2019 16:28

Mrs. Fisher, Tear down this fence!.......

Posted by: Gary W. Skarka | Sep 11, 2019 10:31

Who is going to pay for this border wall, the neighbors on the other side of the fence???


Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 11, 2019 08:46

"verbally unprofessional", this whole new "political correctness" movement is driving me crazy.  We used to just call it "pissed off" and you're darn righ he was pissed off and rightfully so.  As I said in an earlier post Mss. Fisher has no intention of negotiating fairly with the city.  The Planning board showed their hand and gave the school permission to proceed when they should have withheld the permit, not allowed the school to open until an agreement was in place.  We have allowed the school to mock us by giving them too much rope.  Mss. Fisher wants her border wall and will step on everyone it takes to me it happen. She has had her open house, the ribbon cutting and smiley faces, so now it's just business as usual.  I think more "unprofessional non-courteous " behavior is needed John.  In the meantime enjoy your vacation the fence should be completed by your return.


Posted by: John Alexander | Sep 11, 2019 05:46

Looks like it could be another boarder wall....

Posted by: John Alexander | Sep 11, 2019 05:46

Looks like it could be another boarder wall....

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 11, 2019 04:22

SAD!! John, enjoy your vacation and thanks for being on top of this.

Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Sep 10, 2019 21:34

The sad part of all this is that they already spent the money to buy the fence. For me an unnecessary expense for nothing and how this all detracts from an otherwise good project.

Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Sep 10, 2019 21:34

The sad part of all this is that they already spent the money to buy the fence. For me an unnecessary expense for nothing and how this all detracts from an otherwise good project.

Posted by: Steven D Bryant | Sep 10, 2019 20:14

Whatever happened to Mainers helping Mainers? Compromise? Go along and get along? Such a great example being sent to all who attend, work this awesome new facility. Tax payers unite and remedy this issue. Hopefully this isn't one person's act of selfishness. Tom and John do such a great job for the city on so many fronts. Best of luck with this one.

Posted by: Bill Packard | Sep 10, 2019 18:36

NIce new school. Big money.  Sounds like they had a great open house.


It all comes down to a fence.  Can't wait and make sure everyone is on the same page.  It's all about the fence.  Seems sad.

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