Committee proposes $4M 'civic campus' on Falmouth school property

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FALMOUTH — Residents may soon be asked if they want to pay for a long-awaited recreation center, and larger Town Hall and library spaces, if proposals to update the Plummer Motz and Lunt schools are sent to voters this November.

The Community Facilities Planning Committee announced a $4 million plan to move the Town Hall and public library to the school buildings during a public meeting attended by nearly 100 people Monday evening.

The proposed plan calls for renovations to the two buildings, which will be vacated by the school when it moves to a new building in September 2011.

“It would create a civic campus. The library would get the space they’ve needed for years now. It would be one-stop shopping for the community,” said Committee and Town Council Chairwoman Cathy Breen.

The committee recommended a 20-year bond to cover the costs of renovations, some of which would be offset by the potential sale of the current town offices, Pleasant Hill Fire Station and library buildings, as well as by selling five acres of the woods behind the school to Ocean View Retirement Facility.

Interest payments on the bond would increase property taxes by $25 per $100,000 of appraised value. If the council accepts the committee’s recommendations, the borrowing plan would appear on the November ballot.

The plan was presented in two phases, the first of which includes the Town Hall and Memorial Library move, renovation of the Plummer section of the building and an addition on the back of Lunt School for the library. This would provide the library with just over 24,000 square feet of space, more than double its current size.

There is green space available at the site that could be utilized for town events, such as concerts or farmers’ markets. The plan also includes mild renovations to the Motz wing and Mason gymnasium, which could be used as a community meeting place and recreation center.

“There has been talk of a much larger rec center. The committee loves the idea, but felt like it was beyond the scope of this project. With the economy the way it is, we didn’t want to get grandiose with this,” Breen said.

A second phase is not completely sketched out, but could include demolishing the Motz wing and building a more comprehensive rec center. It would also likely include a walking track. Monday night a group of citizens recommended a community pool be included in the second phase plan. Only first-phase projects are included in the proposed bond.

During the meeting, officials conducted a poll of people in attendance. The same poll will be posted on the town’s Web site until April 20. It includes general questions about how important the existing Town Hall and library properties are to citizens, and also asks specifically about each of the proposals in the first phase.

“We’re also testing the interest of the public in selling the land at the Plummer Motz site,” said Theo Holtwijk, director of long range planning.

The town could potentially hold on to all the land at the site. However, this would require an increase in borrowing for the project if the renovations go forward as proposed. Holtwijk said the poll will help the town get a better idea of how much land the public is willing to part with at the site and how much of a tax increase is acceptable.

“If the appetite was to not sell land, we’d need to raise taxes more,” he said.

The committee will compile the results of the survey and present its recommendations to the full council on May 10. Details, including the maps and presentations from Monday night’s meeting, are available on the town’s Web site.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or