ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland City Council refused Monday night to hold off the demolition of the former MacDougal School, despite pleas from a group that is interested in it for an arts and science center.
The council voted 3-2 to reject an order that would delay until Sept. 1 any steps toward the demolition of the former elementary school. Mayor Brian Harden and Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson voted to support the request by the directors of the nonprofit organization The Old School Institute for Arts & Education.
Former Councilor Joseph Steinberger was one of the Old School directors who asked the council to delay demolition. He said even if the demolition did not occur until after Sept. 1, the new group would have difficulty getting people to volunteer their time to examine the building if the council could not show its support by voting for the delay.
Having an arts center in Rockland is important to attract new people to Rockland, Steinberger said.
Steinberger’s group formed after the Lincoln Street Center for Arts & Education announced it would close its building because it was no longer able to maintain that former school on Lincoln Street. The Lincoln Street Center will close June 30.
Steinberger disputed statements that MacDougal was in such poor condition that it needed to be demolished. He took particular aim at Councilor Larry Pritchett. When Councilor William Clayton spoke up in defense of Pritchett, Steinberger did not relent.
“I do not show respect when it is not due,” Steinberger said.
Old School Director Kyle Swan also asked for the delay to give the group a chance to determine whether the building could be saved.
Pritchett said the city does a lot to support the arts in Rockland.
Clayton later said the comments by Steinberger were egregious in insinuating that the council was trying to bring down arts and culture in Rockland by opposing the request.
The Old School initially looked at buying the Lincoln Street Center, but an inspection of that building determined repairs would be too costly.
Rockland has owned the former MacDougal School since the fall of 2010. The school was closed that June. The building was built in 1954 and has 24,000 square feet along with 4 acres of land.