ROCKLAND, Maine — The president of the Watershed School’s board of trustees said Wednesday that the Rockland City Council is not to blame for the independent school’s decision to move to Camden.
Max Alexander issued a letter to the city council on Wednesday following Monday night’s meeting, where a former councilor sharply criticized sitting councilors, calling a majority of them arrogant and incompetent.
“We were extremely grateful for the help and guidance we received from Rockland city officials as well as local business owners in a search for a new home,” Alexander said in the letter. “Unfortunately, given the short time period, we were unable to find a space that met important code and fire safety requirements and was adequate for our needs.”
He said it was not the city’s fault or anyone else’s.
In further comments made Wednesday by telephone, Alexander said the former MacDougal School in Rockland was never under serious consideration. He said the building was filled with asbestos and was rotting.
Former Councilor Joseph Steinberger appeared before the council Monday night to criticize the councilors for their lack of help in keeping the Lincoln Street Center for Arts & Education open and for not assisting Watershed in staying in Rockland. Steinberger has been trying to get permission from the city council to inspect the MacDougal School for possible use by a new group called The Old School.
Watershed considered the fourth floor of the Breakwater Marketplace as a new home but state fire safety codes prohibit schools on fourth floors of wooden buildings if the students are younger than college age, Alexander said.
“It’s not just Rockland, the same rules apply to Camden, Rockport and the entire state,” Alexander said.
The board chairman said he supports those safety regulations as necessary.
“While we are excited about our new home in Camden, we will miss Rockland. Indeed we have many strong ties to Rockland that will continue, such as our ongoing partnership with the Farnsworth Museum,” the board chairman concluded in his letter.
The Watershed School had 26 students at the end of the past school year. The school has found a new home in the former Knox Mill complex in downtown Camden.
Councilors responded quickly Monday evening following Steinberger’s criticism, saying that Watershed’s move was beyond their control and the city had worked with the school. Watershed has been leasing space in the former Lincoln Street Center since it opened in 2003.