Region 8 Board to meet at 7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday, Aug. 28)

Rockland, technical school clash over public access

By Stephen Betts | Aug 27, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — Rockland and the Midcoast School of Technology are at odds over the location of a fence that could impede a future expansion of the Harbor Trail.

City officials are seeking to have a fence on the water side of the new school building located further back from the harbor to allow the Rockland Harbor Trail to possibly extend to that property.

That proposal is being met with resistance by the executive director of the school.

The dispute flared up at the Aug. 20 meeting of the Rockland Planning Board. Planning Board members and neighbors toured the grounds of the school prior to the meeting. The issue of noise from heating, cooling and ventilation equipment on the roof of the building also arose during the site visit.

The meeting was held to consider the plan for the fence and an amphitheater.

MCST Executive Director Elizabeth Fisher sent emails to city officials Aug. 22 about the meeting two days earlier.

In one to Code Enforcement Officer John Root, Fisher said she had spoken to City Manager Tom Luttrell and that he planned to speak to the code officer. "I believed what happened the other night at the meeting was far outside the authority of the Planning Board," she said.

Fisher specifically criticized the way the Planning Board acted on the Harbor Trail issue.

"Nor is the demand for a public easement a reasonable approach to a discussion about alternative use of school property. I do not want this to turn into a legal issue, but I believe we are in compliance with the code in all respects of our building. We are not obligated to provide a public park on our land," Fisher stated.

She said the school was willing to have a reasonable discussion about the public use of the property.

"I see nothing in the code that prohibits us putting in a safety fence to protect our students and the school community from dogs, drugs and other incursions," Fisher said.

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

But the next day 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 had met. That school board is scheduled to meet Wednesday evening, Aug. 28 at 7. at the cafe on the second floor of the new school.

"The School Board, through their representative, will meet next week to review the fence location and then contact the City to make sure everyone in on the same page before the work moves any further," architect Ron Lamarre said in an Aug. 22 email to Root.

The fence is proposed to be a 6-foot high, vinyl chain-link fence that will be on the north, east and south sides of the property. Work on the other sides of the property can continue.

At the July 9 Planning Board meeting, when the fence was first discussed, Rockland Harbor Trail Committee member Louise MacLellan-Ruf said the fence as proposed by the school would cut off public access along the harbor.

"Taxpayers have given you the opportunity to be on the waterfront," MacLellan-Ruf said at that meeting, asking why the vocational school would cut off access to what is both the beginning and end of the Rockland Harbor Trail.

Residents from Waldoboro to Islesboro overwhelmingly approved a $25 million bond referendum in November 2016 for the new school. Ground was broken for the project in October 2017.

Doug Curtis, a member of the Regional School Unit 13 Board, said at the July 9 meeting that he was speaking for himself. He commented that if there was money left over upon completion of the school, it should be returned to taxpayers, not spent on unnecessary things such as a fence.

"I'm adamant we don't need a fence," Curtis said.

Fisher also took aim at the citizens who attended the meeting and presented the board with a petition.

"I appreciate your trying to navigate through a very difficult meeting the other evening," Fisher wrote Aug. 22 to Planning Board member Carol Maines. "Unfortunately we have immense concerns about what transpired including the poorly written and inaccurate petition signed by 24 people trying to thwart the will of the public vote of thousands."

The petitioners stated in their petition that "We have had a long two years of construction noise, dust, drilling etc, the end is near, we had hoped.

"Now the roof top systems are in operation and creating a very intrusive noise and continues through the night, this racket has us shutting our windows and doors day and night. The noise substantially effects our everyday enjoyment of our homes and outside space," the petition states.

The neighbors asked that instead of spending money on the fence and amphitheater that the school install a barrier around the roof top systems to reduce the noise.

The building is two stories with a total of 90,000 square feet.

The old building was built in 1968 as a marine repair shop and was purchased by the Region 8 Cooperative Board in 1976. That 57,000-square-foot building was demolished earlier this summer.

The new building has yet to receive its occupancy permit from the city code office, pending completion of electrical work.

Students are scheduled to attend the school starting Sept. 3.

Comments (24)
Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 06, 2019 08:16

I have never had my question answered from quite sometime ago.   WHO IS PAYING FOR THIS LONG HARBOR WALK TRAIL?

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 28, 2019 18:38

Yeah, tax dollars at work again without a public vote for another path!

Posted by: James Clinton Leach | Aug 28, 2019 13:35

I hope many will attend tonight ...

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Aug 27, 2019 23:17


Posted by: T A Schwab | Aug 27, 2019 05:06

Jim Leach yes I understand it will be on the roof that’s where my tiny view is.  Is there a meeting scheduled to discuss the roof barrier or are they working on the fence issue first? Frankly the roof noise should be addressed first. These last few days with almost no construction noise from the school has been wonderful. You don’t realize how much stress it caused, the constant noise pollution for two years.

Posted by: James Clinton Leach | Aug 26, 2019 15:07

T A ,  the noise barrier would be on the roof of the building not ground level...From what I was told from a firm I’m affiliated with there are other remedies as well.. this isn’t Rocket Science but it’s being treated as such..

Posted by: T A Schwab | Aug 26, 2019 13:31

I don’t want the sound barrier because it may obstruct my tiny view of the water. BUT I would agree for the sake of my neighbors who live closer to the school.  Their quality of life is suffering much more than mine would with no view. It’s what we do for each other. Make compromises.

As a former educator I understand all the issues that come across an administrators desk. A fence won’t keep them from happening, well maybe a loose dog.

Posted by: James Clinton Leach | Aug 26, 2019 11:51

Bill Packard, Director Fisher has done a survey of fences around other schools in the area, one School in particular caught her attention,  the SouthEnd School in Rockland , which she saw on her way to the Planning Board Meeting from the site visit last week...then at the meeting declared ( with a sparkle in her eye ) that school has a fence !  However,  her exuberance was short lived when John Root (code officer ) kindly pointed out to her yes there is ....Around the Athletic Field to ensure admission to the games were paid and to protect the playing field surface..But not around the school building itself.... onto other business...

Posted by: Mid-Coast School of Technology | Aug 26, 2019 09:30

The land the school is built on belongs to the Region 8 Board for the use of providing Career and Technical Education and Adult Education to the students of 19 towns as per the rules defined in state and federal law. The Region 8 Board has the authority to create policies including public use policies that are in accordance with the use the school was intended for. This includes the safety of the students. If an accident or incident were to take place and the school had not taken all reasonable safety measures the blame and the liability would be laid on the school administration.

No I am not a politician and do not always anticipate what will be brought up in a public meeting. But during my tenure,  we have had to deal with pedophiles trying to access the school, dogs left off leash without owners cleaning up after them, campers on the land, vandalism to our CDL and Fire Trucks, portable classroom break-ins dozens of incidents of tobacco, and alcohol use on the property.

The school's land will be posted with the legally required criteria: no smoking, no drugs, no alcohol, no animals except service animals, all visitors while school is in session must check into the main office before accessing the school.

We have been in constant discussion with the community regarding the construction of the building and believe we are in compliance with all codes. We hope this discussion will come to a conclusion that best serves the students and the community but there are a few who will not be happy no matter what we do and they continue to declare they do not want the school here. That is not something that will help resolve anyone's concerns.

We would welcome any legitimate sound studies regarding the building. None of the data we have shows any validity to the claims being made. We have been both asked to leave the view open and to put up a 30 foot sound barrier. We cannot do both. People have asked for trees but where they want them is on City land. That is up to the city. We cannot change the design of the building now.

The school is open to a reasonable discussion but there is certainly a lot of conjecture and misinformation being broadcast around.


Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Aug 25, 2019 18:05

I thought I would share this information from a school safety specialist who contributed to a discussion at First though, just quickly, I'd like to point out that fences work both ways: a fence that can keep something out is also the fence that can keep students penned in, unable to flee from a shooter who is, statistically speaking, a fellow student who enters through the front door.

If there is to be a fence, my opinion is it should be decorative, less than 4 feet high, and of symbolic value.

2 Responses to “School Fences: Will they Improve Safety?”

  1. Catherine Toohey, on August 9th, 2008 at 10:35 am Said:

    I would like to know what they are protecting the students from? If you look at data about school safety, you will find that most incidents are caused or carried out by students, who are already inside the school. While fencing, doors and security cameras may add to a safer environment for our children, they are extremely costly and will not prevent the violence that comes from students already in the school. Cameras make a recording to aid in investigation, and may allow a quicker response IF they are constantly monitored, but have never prevented an incident. Indeed, we have surrveillance camera recordings from Columbine and several other schools in which violent incidents occurred.
    Schools need to be spending at least part of their security funds on the PREVENTION of incidents through programs that help to create a positive school climate, decrease bullying and violence, and empower students to anonymously report their knowledge of problems BEFORE they erupt into violence.

    Prevention is critical and schools are not doing enough in this area.

    Catherine Toohey
    School Safety Specialist

Posted by: T A Schwab | Aug 25, 2019 14:54

Director Fisher’s attitude towards the neighborhood isn’t very inclusive. I can hear the noise from the roof and I’m not next door! It doesn’t ruin my quality of life like these past 2 years have!

BUT for the homes that it does ruin their quality of life  a barrier on the roof is the least we can do.  I’ll sign the petition Jim Leach.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Aug 25, 2019 14:03

This seems like a simple solution. Public School means public access. No fences needed if owned and operated by public taxes. Someone needs to see a lawyer and then proceed. So glad the new school is being built and hopefully the children and the public will enjoy the tax payers hard earned monies.

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Aug 25, 2019 13:37

A plastic fence will do absolutely nothing as far a deterrence to violence. She may as well say we are putting up a fence to deter any potential large scale attack from the French army and navy. This fence is to cut people off from the trail, at least that’s how I see it.

Posted by: Alyce R Delfino | Aug 25, 2019 13:12

Though Ms. Fisher’s comments are far from politically astute, we need to remember what it means to run a school in the 21st century. A fence is necessary to curtail mass shootings that routinely occur on campuses all over the US. We are lucky in the midcoast, but for how long? You may think me alarmist, but all you have to do is access the statistics and you can see I am not.

MCST is accessible to the community! Any of us can take courses there any time! Our tax increase in 2017 paid for the building. The increase this year was due to RSU 13 issues with finances.

A compromise is in order. To create a safe school, a fence is necessary. Let’s keep the path. We can do both.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Aug 25, 2019 10:02

Since the school has not yet received its occupancy permit from the code office and school starts next week, I would suggest Mss. Fisher may not want to be so confrontational. I also agree that when she refers to "our land"  she may want to come to a better understanding of just who's land she is speaking about.  I think Mss. Fisher needs to work on her "good neighbor policy".  I also agree with Doug.  If there is extra money let's not blow it on amphitheaters and fenses lets return it to the taxpayers.

Posted by: Harry Fitzgerald | Aug 25, 2019 08:02

From Nancy Fitzgerald. I was not at any meetings so can only go on what is written in this article. One comment by Fisher kind of bothers me, the one where she is said to have stated that "We are not obligated to provide a public park on our land." It's  the "our land" comment that bothers me. Seems to me the use of $26 million  of taxpayer money kind of makes it our land too. I question how often the students are actually outside except to arrive or leave the school, from the front, so what is the problem that requires a fenced in school anyway? OHS and OMS are not fenced in

Submitted by Nancy Fitzgerald

Posted by: James Clinton Leach | Aug 25, 2019 07:03

The Petition mentioned by Director Fisher is still active and available for anyone to sign, I’m sure your fellow Citizens ( Neighbors of the School of Technology ) would welcome your support in this unfortunate situation..

please contact Jim Leach @ 207596-1992

Posted by: James Clinton Leach | Aug 25, 2019 06:44

I was at the Planning Board Meeting and the Board did not demand anything ! That which was spoken is disinformation by the Director ..her behavior seemingly is to accuse all others of being inaccurate, misinformed , demanding , etc....and attempting to thwart the will of the people statement is totally absurd ! .Director Fisher the folks that signed the Petition voted for the School ...Carol did the best she could in recording what transpired at the meeting everyone was attempting to find common ground except you...Neighbors of the school are complaining because their quality of life has been substantially effected by the intrusive noise coming from the roof of the building , if they were no noise there would be no Petition...we were told a 15’ enclosure would remediate the racket coming from the roof at the meeting...No Fence / No Noise

The Region 8 Board is having a meeting this week to discuss the Fence and what transpired at the last Planning Board meeting I encourage everyone to attend that believes a fence is not what we need or want  around our School...also stop in to City Hall and copies of the letters sent to the City by Director Fisher and the minutes to the meeting, very enlightening...

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Aug 25, 2019 04:43

Used that path the other day when returning from Ocean Avenue in Owls Head to Snow Marine Park. Have for years. Sad to see a fence cut it off. No brainer.

Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Aug 25, 2019 04:32

Is that the school? Dear God.

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Aug 25, 2019 02:22

For a number of years the public has peacefully walked their dogs along the path from Snow Marine Park along the back of the school to  access  the beach or just to enjoy the view and return to the park.  Suddenly with the new building going up, a fence was constructed which separated the work from the passerbyers.  No problem there since they likely did not want anyone hurt and the people could still continue to walk the path.  Suddenly additional fences were put up which increased to the point that no one could pass by.  Someone said the City Council had given an easement to the school.  I questioned why an easement which would grant the school access could block people using a public way,  It was rumored that Ms. Fisher did not like dogs and that was the way she wanted it.  So what was a peaceful coexistence between the public and school turned into a message that the citizens who were footing the bill for the school were not trusted to pass on the  public land.

Posted by: Dennis Corkum | Aug 24, 2019 21:21

Why on earth do we need a fence?  To keep students in, is it that bad? Or keep the public that spent 25 million out?  My taxes just went up 7%, if there is left over money on this project (tax free) I would appreciate some back.  I don't believe it was a blank check.  Wonder if Elizabeth Fisher lives in Rockland.  Seems like a number of officials spending money don't, ie city manager.

Posted by: Amy Files | Aug 24, 2019 18:24

A school is part of our community — a school cannot thrive without a positive relationship with the community it serves. It is in the best interest for our schools to value positive relationships with the surrounding community and vice versa. A 6ft chain link fence doesn't sound like a quality solution for aesthetics or public relations. Fencing off your school from the surrounding neighbors and community members sends a negative statement. There are alternative ways to solve the issues that this fence seeks to solve. So far the architect seems to have done a good job with the design of the building — it would be nice if they could extend their design aesthetics to solve their barrier/boundary needs and not just throw up a chain link fence — ugly and unwelcoming.

Posted by: Bill Packard | Aug 24, 2019 18:19

So, $26 million in public money went into building it and now it's not accessible to the public?  Wonder if anyone has done a survey of other schools in the area that have fences to keep the public out?

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