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MSAD #28 Statement on MET Building

PUBLIC STATEMENT

MAINE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT NO. 28

BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS

July 24, 2017

History
For over 4 years, the MSAD 28 board has been working on a new middle school construction project. On September 18, 2014, the board engaged the project architect. One of the first tasks was to consider various design alternatives for the project.

On February 10, 2015, the Board submitted a selected project to the voters that included new construction, “demolition of portions of the middle school facility,” and “renovations to the Mary E. Taylor building,” to be financed through bonding of up to $28,000,000. The voters rejected that project by a vote of 946 No to 668 Yes.

On June 13, 2017, the Board submitted a revised project concept to the voters that included “new construction” and “demolition of the existing middle school facility,” to be financed through bonding of up to $25,200,000. The voters approved that project by a vote of 1,947 Yes to 897 No. The total project cost is $26.3 million dollars. The district has $1.1 million in reserves for this project.

In the board’s judgment, the June 13 referendum question clearly stated that the project would include authority for “demolition of the existing middle school facility.” This was in contrast to the earlier referendum question which included “renovations to the Mary E. Taylor building.”

Shortly before the approved referendum, the board voted to reconsider the future of MET. The superintendent wrote a public letter that the referendum would not preclude the board from considering options that would preserve the MET building. Following the referendum, our legal counsel advised that an amendment to the project that preserved the MET building should be submitted to referendum approval. In summary, the board is authorized to demolish the building, but may consider an alternative, which would need to be resubmitted to and approved by an amending referendum.

Future Consideration of MET
The board has received extensive input about MET from voters and nonvoters, including written comments as well as comments at its meetings held June 15 and July 13, 2017. The board has received comments in favor of preserving the MET building and comments in favor of proceeding as currently authorized to demolish it. To date, no firm proposal for an alternative project has been submitted by any party.

The Board is willing to review firm proposals to preserve the MET building, but only if the following conditions and requirements are satisfied:

  • To be considered, a proposal must be submitted no later than November 30, 2017 so that the MSAD 28 board has adequate time to review the proposal and negotiate terms of a binding commitment, subject to referendum approval. No proposal received after that date will be considered.
  • The legal requirements to reconsider a referendum vote are met.
  • Proposals from developers or donors must be firm, detailed, and in writing.
  • To be placed out to referendum, a binding commitment must be acceptable to the MSAD 28 board in form and content. In the case of a development proposal, this will include, but not be limited to, submission of supporting documentation by the developer demonstrating adequate evidence of legal compliance (including land use/zoning/handicap access and fire safety), cost (construction proposals and costing by qualified contractors), the developer’s technical capacity (experience) and financial capacity (such as loan commitment letters or other funding sources) for the project. In case of a donation, only a cash gift, not pledges, will be considered, and any conditions or requirements of the gift must be acceptable to the board.
  • The latest the MSAD 28 board will vote to place a proposal out to referendum is April 12, 2018 for the statewide June 2018 voting date. A proposal not developed into and approved as a binding written commitment by that date will not be put out to referendum and any further discussions or negotiations will be discontinued.
  • Because the MET building would be in close proximity to the new middle school, the proposal must permit MSAD 28 to place reasonable use/activity restrictions on the MET property. This is an even greater concern if the proposal would have MSAD 28 occupy the redeveloped building with other users. In this regard, the proposal must take into consideration legal requirements and best practices for controlling and restricting public access in a public school building during school hours, as well as uses that would be inappropriate or offensive in proximity to a middle school.
  • A proposal involving historic tax credits and a lease back to MSAD 28 of all or any portion of the MET building must be supported by a tax opinion of developer’s counsel.
  • A proposal including a lease to MSAD 28 must demonstrate to the board’s satisfaction that the relative costs to taxpayers and benefits to students are preferable to other space options.

Other relevant information

  • MSAD 28 is a single purpose unit of government with one function: public education. MSAD 28 is not a real estate developer. Our legal counsel advises that MSAD 28 does not have broad home rule authority like a town to engage in economic development.
  • Our legal counsel advises that a proposal involving a lease of space to MSAD 28, as tenant, may be limited by Maine statute to a term of four years.
  • Our legal counsel advises that proposals involving a lease of the building by MSAD 28, as landlord, to a developer may be problematic because a lease by MSAD 28, as landlord, may be limited by Maine statute to a term of ten years.
  • In considering the costs and benefits of a proposal, the MSAD 28 board will consider the lost benefit of the additional land area for its middle school, including its possible future need for additional space should its school population grow or should its curricular or extracurricular needs change over the long term.
  • The Board notes that Knowlton Street residents have expressed significant concerns about the parking impact of various suggestions for the MET building. Immediate neighborhood impacts will be a consideration of the Board in reviewing a proposal.
  • The board will not consider a proposal which would delay the scheduled completion date of the current project, September 1, 2020, and/or increase the cost of the current project to MSAD 28 taxpayers.

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