Cape Elizabeth library plan gets boost from council

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council on Dec. 9 is expected to establish a Library Building Committee and its working budget of almost $341,000.

Councilors reviewed and reached consensus on the Library Planning Committee’s report, and brainstormed goals for 2014, in a workshop on Monday, Dec. 2.

The library report, which was first presented at a Nov. 6 meeting, calls for a $4 million bond to finance the construction and renovation of Thomas Memorial Library. It asks the council to create a Building Committee to develop a final plan and costs, which would then go to voters no later than November 2014.

The council looked at pre-construction soft costs that would total an estimated nearly $341,000. That includes more than $254,000 in architectural and engineering costs, $25,000 for a Planning Board review, $25,000 for legal and bond issuance fees, and more.

Town Manager Michael McGovern recommended that $100,000 be appropriated from the town’s infrastructure improvement fund, which had a balance of about $191,000 as of June 30. The remaining nearly $241,000 would come from the general fund’s unassigned balance, which was $3.14 million as of June 30.

If the $4 million bond were to pass in November, all of the $341,000 would be reimbursed to the respective funds. If the bond fails, it would be a sunk cost.

Councilor Caitlin Jordan questioned whether that was too much to spend on a project that could ultimately be rejected by voters.

Several councilors stated how important it would be for the Building Committee to solicit public input on the project and to inform citizens of the details of the plan.

“It’s incumbent upon this committee to get the vote,” Councilor Frank Governali said.

In November 2012, voters rejected a $6 million library bond. Councilor Jessica Sullivan said some residents were confused about what that library plan entailed, which led to the vote against the bond.

This time around, “We can say to citizens, this is exactly what you’re getting, and this is how much it costs,” Sullivan said.

The council reviewed a potential makeup for the Building Committee: two councilors, one School Board member, one library trustee, and one member of the public. Library Director Jay Scherma would sit on the committee as a non-voting member, while Gregory Marles, the town’s director of facilities and transportation, and one school staff member would serve as advisers.

In other business, the council discussed its goals for the coming calendar year.

Councilor-elect Molly MacAuslan, who was elected to her first council term last month, said she would like to see the town more clearly define its relationship to the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society and explore new options for its home; the society is currently housed in the library, but the proposed plan doesn’t allocate space for it.

Councilors Katharine Ray and Jordan suggested housing the society in the Spurwink School building, which under the new plan would be detached from the library and used for an as-yet-undetermined purpose.

Councilor David Sherman said of the building, “You could envision a (request for proposal) process.”

Ray suggested a review of the town’s naming opportunities policy, in reference to the library and other areas for potential revenue.

Sullivan set a goal of exploring the creation of a senior citizen advisory commission to advocate for older members of the community. She noted that baby boomers comprise the largest segment of the town’s population and said Cape Elizabeth has an older population than many of its neighbors.

Sherman said he would like to see the council make better use of social media.

MacAuslan mentioned the need to resolve the ongoing controversies surrounding the 2013 update of the Greenbelt Plan, and the dispute between the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club and residents of the Cross Hill neighborhood, calling the issues “the elephant in the room.”

Jordan and Sherman responded that the council is actively working to find resolutions and bring those issues to a close.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.