Cape Elizabeth councilors shelve some library recommendations

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CAPE ELIZABETH — While agreeing the town needs an expanded and renovated Thomas Memorial Library, town councilors on Monday expressed different opinions about how and when to pitch the project to voters.

The result of the workshop discussion will lead to a council vote Monday, Feb. 13, on five recommendations from Town Manager Michael McGovern and the Portland-based consulting firm of Demont Associates.

The recommendations were culled from a list of seven suggested by McGovern last month.

Councilors rejected contributing $50,000 to the Thomas Memorial Library Foundation to pay for consultant fees needed to set up a fundraising campaign. They also rejected a proposal to pursue naming opportunities for major donors.

Included in the recommendations are requests for library trustees and the Cape Elizabeth Historic Preservation Society to re-examine expansion plans and highlight how the library will be used as a cultural center and how much storage space will be needed for archival storage.

Councilors might also ask McGovern to allocate about $40,000 in the fiscal year 2013 budget for part-time help at the library. The additional staff could create more time for Library Director Jay Scherma and Children’s Librarian Rachel Davis to refine plans for library services and community activities.

The library expansion and renovation is estimated to cost $8.5 million, and councilors have considered placing a construction bond of as much as $5 million on the June 2013 ballot.

Robert Demont of Demont Associates told councilors Monday he feels as much as $3 million could be raised from select contributors in the community, including library board members. Demont said councilors should consider $1.75 million as the minimum that could be privately raised, but a longer capital campaign would bring greater financial results.

“We would not rule out the possibility of a $1 million gift,” he said.

Demont urged councilors to begin the fundraising program before a bond referendum, but his approach drew opposition from Councilors David Sherman, Frank Governali and James Walsh.

Sherman in particular emphasized his belief that public approval of a construction bond would show public support and commitment to potential private donors. He also said the library foundation, with Cape Elizabeth attorney Robert Stier as its chairman, could identify and solicit possible donors without the town providing money for a consulting firm.

Walsh and council Chairwoman Sara Lennon said they would speak with Stier before Monday’s meeting to get a better understanding of what the foundation could do to raise money for the library project.

Demont said his recommended approach runs counter to efforts in neighboring towns to secure library expansion funding, but said getting private commitments for the project first is necessary because of the economic times. He created a top-down method in the report he submitted to library trustees, featuring tiered levels of contributors before making a wider public effort to raise money.

Getting private contributions first resembles the fundraising effort to renovate Merrill Auditorium in Portland in the mid 1990s, Demont said. He added that securing private contributions could allow some library expansion work to be completed in the event a construction bond is rejected by voters.

Councilors are also considering putting a potential bond to a vote at an earlier date because it could sharpen the focus for voters who may be unaware of the library expansion plans.

According to the library website, Thomas Memorial Library is housed in a building that is about 160 years old and was moved to several locations before settling at the current Scott Dyer Road site in 1943. The building is about 13,000 square feet and expansion plans would add about about 10,000 square feet while also improving parking.

Information about library renovation and expansion plans can be found at www.thomasmemoriallibrary.org by tabbing on the Library Building News section.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Last chance to raise a stink about sewer fee increase

CAPE ELIZABETH — Flushing a toilet could become more expensive as town councilors consider increasing sewer fees by about $10 a month over the next four years.

If councilors approve the rate increases at their meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, residents would see monthly sewer fees increase from $37.90 for the first 100 cubic feet of water used to $40 for the same measurement, beginning March 1.

By March 1, 2015, the first 100 cubic feet of water used would cost customers $48 monthly. Customers are currently charged $4.90 for each additional 100 cubic feet of water used. On March 1, that amount would increase to $5.10 and by March 1, 2015, customers would be assessed a $5.57 fee per 100 cubic feet of water used beyond the first 100 feet.

Town Manager Michael McGovern said the rate increase is needed to pay for improvements to the waste-water treatment plant on Spurwink Avenue.

The facility is owned by Portland Water District and the upgrades are needed to come into compliance with Maine Department of Environmental Protection regulations preventing storm overflows. McGovern said the work at the 25-year-old facility is almost complete.

There are more than 2,200 accounts using the sewers and waste-water plants in town and South Portland, McGovern said. Almost all accounts are residential, but there are some businesses, local schools and municipal buildings.

McGovern said revenue projections from the rate increases will add more than $85,000 next year, with about $24,000 from fees for usage beyond the first 100 cubic feet of water.

By fiscal year 2016, McGovern said he expects an increase of almost $350,000 in revenues.

Monday’s vote will be preceded by a public hearing at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

— David Harry

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.