ROCKLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Most of the election focus is on the candidates, whether it's Trump and Clinton or all those running for other offices. However, in addition to all the candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, some voters will face very local decisions on Election Day.
In Knox County, voters will decide whether to spend $25 million for a new, regional vocational school. The Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland serves 19 towns, and currently has about 450 students. But school leaders say their building is worn out.
The school has been in the building since 1977, and board members told NEWS CENTER the structure is shot.
They said corrosion and decay has created problems on both the metal siding, and the steel beans that make up the building’s frame. They said the electrical and plumbing systems are failing as well, and that engineering and design studies have shown it would actually cost more to repair the building that it would to replace it.
Beside those concerns, board members and school director Beth Fisher said the current building doesn’t have enough room. They said it’s a particular problem in the culinary program, where the commercial kitchen is often too small for the number of students in the class. In the shop area, they said welding, machine tool, carpentry and boat-building classes are jammed together in the same area and there isn’t enough space for both high school and adult-ed projects.
The design for the new building provides about 93,000 square feet of space — a significant increase in size.
The board members said it would incorporate the latest technology as well as energy efficiency, and also allow the school to change the class schedule so students could spend full days at the tech school. Currently, the day is split into morning and afternoon sessions, because there isn’t enough space and no lunch room.
The board members said they have held multiple meetings throughout the school’s region to explain the plan and gather input. They said they’ve heard strong support, and a clear need for more career and technical education.
“I’ve had people come to me with businesses saying they can’t get the welders they need or electricians," board member Joanne Fisher said. "The things this school produces they desperately need."
Director Beth Fisher said those jobs are also what the area needs to help keep more young people living there.
“These are not jobs that will be outsourced,” she said. “We’re going to need carpenters and auto mechanics and CANs, and we’re going to need cooks.“
She said the school is important to students, and to economic development. They’re all hoping voters will agree on Nov. 8.