ROCKPORT, Maine — The community has worked for a while now to figure out what to do with its old school on Route 1. Town officials thought they had a bargain with Maine Media Workshops, but that fell through.
Residents, meanwhile, have forced a referendum question for Nov. 8 in an effort to make the town keep the old Rockport Elementary School and the 7.6 acres of land it sits on.
Townspeople gathered 229 signatures to put the question on the ballot asking voters whether the town should keep the land and not lease it to anyone for more than five years.
The vote will serve as a poll more than anything else, since the result does not legally bind the town to any action, according to town officials. However, the vote will influence the Board of Selectmen’s future actions, according to the town clerk.
Lowell Jones and his brother Roger Jones, who co-own a barbershop in Camden, speak adamantly about the town keeping the land. Make it something good for kids in the town, they say. Rent it to nonprofits or companies to throw banquets, they say. Just don’t sell it.
“The town is going to be there for a long time. Who knows what they might need it for?” said Roger Jones as he stood inside the barbershop, his brother busy cutting hair.
“We’re trying to keep it. The citizens own it. It’s prime property for the town,” said Lowell Jones as he gestured with scissors near his client’s head.
Some residents want to make tax money off the land, but this argument holds no weight with the two lifelong residents, who say any tax money made from the 7.6-acre parcel won’t affect any one person’s tax bill very much.
“We’ve owned it since 1951 and no one worried about the taxes we weren’t getting,” Lowell Jones said.