School, town lines cross

TREMONT — School officials apologized to selectmen Tuesday for expanding a fenced playground onto town land without getting permission from the town. That led to discussion of other school-related issues.

“We apologize if there was any miscommunication on the fence issue,” said Marc Gousse, superintendent of the Mount Desert Island school district. “It’s certainly not the way we prefer to do business.”

The Parent Teacher Organization at the Tremont Consolidated School recently completed an expansion of the school playground. A fence was moved to prevent damage from snowplowing, putting a small portion of the playground on town land, about 83 square feet of town land, according to resident Keith Higgins, who helped with the project.

Ownership of land around the school is divided between the town and the school. For instance, the community center, once the site of the town office, and a portion of the parking lot are owned by the town.

Principal Jandrea True, who took over the position in January, and Gousse, who became superintendent in July, both said their unfamiliarity with the boundaries led to the misunderstanding.

“It was simply a matter of new people not understanding the property lines,” True said.

Kathi Thurston, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, told school officials that in the past, school projects involving the use of town land first came before the board for approval. That was the case with the greenhouse and the veteran’s memorial, she said.

“This is important that we keep in close touch about the boundary lines,” Thurston said. “If there’s a need, approach the board.”

Gousse said school officials would do all they can to ensure this problem doesn’t arise in the future, including getting an updated plot plan.

That’s when selectmen learned of a second school project involving the use of town land.

Teacher Geoff Wood told selectmen that he and others had begun clearing a trail behind the school that goes onto town property. The trail would be used as an outdoor classroom. Wood said he had discussed the trail with Carl Young when Young was town manager and thought he had permission to proceed. Young resigned in June 2014 after less than a year on the job.

“At the time, we believed we were doing this with the full knowledge of the town,” Wood said.

Concerned about the lack of a clear-cut understanding of the responsibilities of the school and use of town property, selectmen voted to develop a memorandum of understanding with the school for discussion at a future meeting.

The town and school do have a memorandum of understanding regarding the school’s use of the community building. On Tuesday, selectmen approved a motion to have Town Manager Dana Reed draft an update of the memorandum for selectmen and school officials to consider. The board and school officials had no objections to the terms of the current memorandum, which expired June 30, in which the school is to pay $5,000 annually for use of the building for a period of five years.

The final school issue discussed Tuesday involved a bottle collection box on the town-owned Murphy lot across from the school. Money from redeeming the recyclables funds eighth-grade class projects. There have been complaints that the area near the collection box has been unsightly.

“We are making every effort to address this,” True assured selectmen.

True said the school is trying to get more parents of eighth-graders involved; there have been problems getting the bottles and cans to a redemption center. If there is no response, then the school will either relocate the box or consider having a different group benefit, she added.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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