May 26, 2018
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Rockland asked to hold off on MacDougal School demolition

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A group that is eyeing the former MacDougal School building for an arts and science center has asked the city council to hold off until September any plans to demolish the vacant building.

Joseph Steinberger and Ron Tesler met Monday night with the Rockland City Council to discuss the request by new nonprofit organization The Old School Institute for Arts & Science. The group formed last month in an effort to save the Lincoln Street Center for Arts & Education. But after touring the three-story brick building that had also been a school, the group said it was not financially feasible.

The group then turned its attention to the former MacDougal School. The city has owned the one-story MacDougal building since the fall of 2010 after Regional School Unit 13 closed the elementary school that June.

The school board recommended the closure and Rockland voters ratified that decision in a February 2010 referendum because of the expected prohibitive cost of repairing it. The MacDougal building would need a new roof, walls, windows, siding and a new boiler to be up to code, according to an engineering study commissioned by the school district.

MacDougal was built in 1954 and has 24,000 square feet of space along with about 4 acres.

Steinberger said, however, that he believes the building can be used for a lot less money than engineers have said.

The Old School directors asked the city to hold off plans for demolition until Sept. 1 so the organization can examine the building more comprehensively. Steinberger said the building was designed to allow a lot of natural light. There are 14 classrooms in the school along with the larger room used as a cafeteria.

“We tear down nice, old buildings all the time,” Steinberger said, specifically mentioning the demolition of the large granite Custom House building in 1970 as an example of poor decisions.

He also argued that engineers will propose more elaborate projects than are needed. He cited the proposal by engineers hired by the city to address flooding along Lindsey Brook. The engineers proposed a $4 million dollar project in 1999 when in reality all that was needed was to clean up the brook and remove items such as shopping carts that had blocked culverts along the brook.

The city council will consider the request by The Old School Institute for Arts & Science at its Monday, June 11, meeting.

Councilor Larry Pritchett said, however, that the condition of the MacDougal School building was poor and that considerable money would be needed to bring it up to current codes.

Steinberger countered that if the city were to go into all the homes in Rockland it would find that 99 percent of them would not meet current building codes.

“That’s not true,” Pritchett said.

Steinberger reiterated his position.

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