Letter to the Editor: New vision for Mount Abe facility hailed for creative ideas

The Addison Independent’s recap of the Nov. 27 meeting of the Mount Abraham Middle/High School’s Renovation Committee meeting was superb. As the author noted, the session was a lively and yet respectful discussion full of energy and tension. The Addy Indy article captured all of this very well. Special thanks to all who made the meeting so!
As reported in the article, the top vote getters from the facilitated process were “Fiscal Responsibility” and “Community Engagement.” More specifically, the ‘engagement’ sought included community vision, empowerment, and ownership.
Perhaps the best drama of the evening was when Lincoln’s Steve Harris attempted to insert a bold new approach for addressing the finances and deferred maintenance of our aging relic. In a nutshell, Steve proposed that we recognize that the MAUM/HS building has served its purpose and that it should be replaced rather than renovated.
To accomplish this, Steve suggested that the building be sold to another entity and portions be leased back for as long as needed. He suggested that a new, one-story building measuring about 250 feet by 250 feet be built just north of the existing one and connected to the old one. The new building could include a second gym and space enough to serve 750 students. It could be built for $17 million or so.
Not everyone bought Steve’s numbers but they seem realistic to me if the design is a prudent one. Hopefully local contractors and building materials would be optimized and MAUM/HS students would be actively engaged just as they were when the wood heating plant was added several years back.
Steve’s Five-Town community incubator idea is a brilliant one and worth pondering in whole or at least in part. My tweak would be that the new partnership not be simply a public-private one. These often end up with the community getting the short end of the stick.
A public-private-commons partnership might better serve the needs of the Five-Town community in general and MAUM/HS in particular. It could create a venue where all of the citizens, residents, and/or commoners who see MAUM/HS as home to their community-based theater productions, master’s swim, Addison United soccer, and much more could be actively engaged in creating the vision and holding a portion of the ownership.
This approach is at the very core of ‘polycentric governance’ for which Elinor Ostrum won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2009. Perhaps our Five-Town community could open up to that possibility. It might just put us on the map and on the road to a renewed MAUM/HS organism, fiscal responsibility and community vision, empowerment, and part ownership with a new gym and/or field house thrown in for good measure.
David Brynn

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