April 26, 2013






Town officials raise questions on LCOC plans for wing use
 by JD Rule


     Addressing a group composed mostly of supporters, members of the board of directors of the Lubec Community Outreach Center (LCOC) presented their vision for the future use of the former Lubec High School facility. The two‑hour meeting, held on April 22, attracted about 40 local residents, including a number of elected officials. Lubec school board Chair Tabitha Munson and member Danielle Caricofe were present, as was Lubec Select Board Chair Maureen Glidden and selectmen Michael Scrivani and Sara McConnell. McConnell is also a member of the LCOC board. Also participating were three youthful community members. This was the second public information meeting hosted by the group.
The LCOC, which is a 501(c)(3) tax‑exempt public charity, proposes to utilize the former high school facility for a range of community service programs. The group provided the 2012 summer recreation program and senior Christmas party, currently conducts the after‑school program and is making preparations for this year's summer recreation program, set to begin in two months. The group also hopes to relocate the existing Whiting Food Pantry to Lubec, as requested by the Whiting operation's management, and proposes using the facility for that purpose. The list of programs the group plans to develop includes those that serve school children, local teens, seniors and others. Services are provided to all interested families, with those from outside Lubec paying a non‑subsidized rate.
During the regular January 16 meeting, the school board rejected an LCOC proposal to move the food pantry operations to the shuttered high school wing. Meeting earlier in the day on April 22, the board provided conditional approval of the LCOC request to use the facility for the summer recreation program.
Select board members Glidden and Scrivani, during the evening's meeting, questioned the LCOC plans, expressing concerns that the proposal lacks specifics and is based on grant money that may not be dependable. Catherine Arrington, LCOC executive director, replied that the organization plans on conducting operations "without any taxpayer funds," but that finalization of plans is contingent on being assured of community support including, in particular, the use of the school facility.
Ownership of the facility was discussed, with Glidden asking, "Are you proposing the LCOC take over ownership?" Accepting ownership, said Arrington, would put the LCOC in a position where they would be legally required to perform costly upgrades that are not feasible with current funding prospects and would divert funds from social programs. In response to another question, Glidden stated, "These buildings belong to the citizens of the town," prompting former select board member Joanne Case to say, "So the decision to tear down should be brought to the voters." Munson, in a reversal from a previously stated position, agreed with this, saying, "The decision to demolish would have to come to the voters."
Scrivani, at this point, voiced support for the LCOC program in general but expressed concerns about the location, that the kinds of programs contemplated for the future could be "disruptive to the educational process." Caricofe asked Scrivani, "Your biggest objection is that it is a distraction?" Case then interrupted Scrivani's response by observing that "the only ones I've seen here tonight who are negative are our selectmen," then continued to speak in support of the LCOC proposal. When Scrivani attempted to respond to Case, Lubec resident Richard Hoyt interjected, "Mike, please let her finish, I want to hear what she has to say."
Following Case's comments, Glidden expressed concerns that the LCOC could begin a program then be forced to shut down, leaving the town to "pick up the pieces." Addressing Case, she asked, "Do you remember how many times somebody came and said, 'Town, it's all yours?'" At this point, Glidden rose and left the meeting.
LCOC board member Rob Chaffee provided an overview of the results of the recent energy audit, stating, "With a long‑term lease we will take responsibility for these improvements." According to the audit, efficiency enhancements C a portion of which would be funded by the LCOC C would result in a 53% reduction in energy costs and a two and a half year payback for the required work.
Teacher Diane Tyler pointed out that the LCOC proposal provides "an equity investment in a building that would otherwise be falling apart." Hoyt added that "since none of us know what the future will bring," the building should be retained as an asset belonging to the community, as it "may be needed again at some time."
Referring to the series of four meetings held in late 2011, Marcia Chaffee observed that the ideas being put forth "didn't come from the LCOC, they came from the people." During these well‑attended meetings, public input was solicited on possible uses for the former high school facility. Many residents expressed the need for various social programs, suggesting that the facility was well suited for those purposes. Daycare and other family support programs were frequently mentioned at that time.
In conclusion, McConnell stated that she would work with the school board to get an updated proposal on the agenda for their consideration at the next meeting. Pointing out that "tonight we've come a long way," Hoyt suggested that the meeting be closed by participants forming a circle and holding hands in silence for a few seconds.

April 26, 2013     (Home)     


www The Quoddy Tides article search