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News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 31, 2012
Penobscot Community School parking lot project faces potential delay

by Anne Berleant

A permit has been issued by the Department of Environmental Protection for the parking lot expansion project based on plans submitted by consultant Hugh Durgin, Superintendent Mark Hurvitt reported at the June 11 school committee meeting.

However, town selectmen are uncertain whether the parcel of “mitigating” land proposed in the plan is in the right spot.

The DEP requires an area of wetland be permanently set aside to offset, or mitigate, wetland used in construction projects. In the DEP-approved plan for adding 40 parking spaces to the school lot, a 1.8-acre plot behind the school is proposed as the mitigating wetland. However, selectmen are discussing moving the parcel south, closer to land behind the Penobscot Nursing Home.

Moving the parcel can be done, Durgin told Hurvitt, when contacted about the potential replacing of the mitigating wetland. The original parcel was chosen because it was seen as the piece of least value in the strip of land running behind the school, the firehouse and the nursing home.

“The proposed mitigation plan now submitted nearly uses up the width of that lot between the [access] road and the septic system,” Selectman Paul Bowen said when contacted after the meeting. “That was one of our concerns.”

If the mitigation parcel is moved south, closer to PNH, it would still leave room for access in the event of any future changes to the PNH site, Bowen said. However, in learning from Durgin that the mitigation parcel in the current proposed plan holds the least value, selectmen plan to discuss this further at their June 12 meeting.

“No one of is really thrilled with the whole concept of mitigation land for what we consider minimal or no impact that the parking lot expansion will have,” Bowen said.

It would “take some time and money” to move the piece over in the plans, Hurvitt told board members, which would have to be resubmitted to the DEP and cause a slight delay in starting the project.

The Castine Patriot was not able to learn of the selectmen’s final decision, if any, by press time.

In other business, the board unanimously voted to award the fuel bid for 2012-13 to Gary’s Fuel. The price per gallon has gone down from this year, to $3.24 per gallon from $3.45. Overall, for the 7,500 gallons specified in the contract, the cost will be $24,300.

Also given unanimous board approval was the appointment of Katrina Dagan as teacher for physical education (two days) and health (one day). Dagan, a resident of Castine, has three years’ experience teaching in public schools and most recently has been a softball and volleyball coach at Maine Maritime Academy. Board members Jim Goodman and Jen Pert were on the hiring committee to fill the position. Dagan has already been at the school, taking inventory and organizing equipment.

“There’s no downside” to her appointment, Principal Allen Cole said.

The Penobscot school discussion group will meet on Monday, June 25, at 7 p.m. to discuss proficiency based education, Cole reported, with a presentation by an assistant superintendent from the Oxford area whose school uses this teaching model. Proficiency based education doesn’t use classroom grades for students but teaches to their academic level in each subject. Students move on the next level as their proficiency in the content increases, Cole explained.

“I don’t think it’s a fad,” he said. “It’s the way things are going.”

Chairman Jerry Markley and member Jody Norton were absent from the meeting. The school committee next meets on July 9, 6 p.m., at the school.