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Falmouth Council sends town hall, library, community center plan to voters

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Falmouth Council sends town hall, library, community center plan to voters

FALMOUTH — In addition to leadership, committee and liaison appointments, the Council discussed on Monday a proposal to move the town hall and library to the Lunt and Plummer-Motz school buildings.

The meeting was the council's first since the June 8 election.

In unanimous votes, the Council appointed Tony Payne as chairman and Teresa Pierce as vice chairwoman.

Pierce, Councilors Cathy Breen and Will Armitage will serve on the finance committee, Breen will continue in her sixth year as representative to the Greater Portland Council of Governments. Councilor Bonny Rodden will continue to serve on the ecomaine and Metro boards of directors. Armitage will continue to serve on the Tidewater Advisory Council.

Newly-elected Councilor Faith Varney will serve as the liaison to the School Board and on the One Falmouth Committee.

The Council also voted 4-2, with Varney abstaining, to give concept approval to send the Facilities Planning Committee's recommendations to a referendum on the November ballot. Chairman Payne and Councilor Fred Chase voted against the measure.

Varney abstained from the vote, stating she did not yet know enough about the issue to make an informed decision.

Before the vote, facilities committee member Steven Tenney spoke briefly in favor of the proposal.

"I believe the committee's recommendation is monumental," he said. "I don't believe there's a better solution."

Two citizens who attended the public meetings prior to the committee's recommendation also spoke out in favor of the proposal.

The council's discussion centered on concerns that a public-private partnership between OceanView, a retirement community, and the town be fully explored to save money on the project.

"Conceptually, I like the plan," said Armitage. "My issue is with the price tag. I think between now and August we can try and tweak some of the numbers."

The recommendation would send a $4 million bond to the ballot for the construction costs associated with the first phase of a plan to renovate the soon-to-be vacated Plummer-Motz and Lunt schools.

The town hall would be relocated to the Plummer space and the library to the Lunt space with an addition. A community recreation space would be created in the renovated Motz building and Mason gymnasium.

The current town hall and library buildings would be sold to offset the costs of the renovations as part of the plan.

"It's a slam dunk, in my humble opinion," said Pierce. "I'm committed to getting the price down, but I'm not going to say we can get it down to nothing."

Breen and Rodden also spoke out in favor of sending the measure to the voters.

Chase said he would like to see voters presented with at least one other option, which would include design-build bids for the property. He questioned the numbers the appraiser put forth for the properties that would be sold to offset the construction costs.

"The truth is we don't have any idea how much this will cost," Chase said.

Payne questioned the need for the entire project.

"Are these needs or wants? I see that they're wants," he said. "It's Parkinson's Law: The work will fill the time allotted to it."

He cautioned against increasing space, which he said would allow town government to expand.

"I do not favor moving forward with this project and I do not favor spending staff time on the referendum," Payne said.

After the initial vote passed, Chase offered a second motion to accept design builds by private developers for the entire 20-acre plot where the schools are currently located and to put those proposals on the ballot as well.

"I don't think we're there yet," said Rodden. "It would be very difficult to meet that kind of time line."

The wording for a referendum item must be drafted and approved in August so that it can appear on the November ballot.

Pierce said she opposed Chase's motion, saying she'd like to see the committee's recommendations go to referendum. If it's turned down, she said, they could then explore other options.

"Let's do what we just passed, let's put that out to the public, let the chips fall where they may. Where they fall will determine what we do," she said.

Chase's motion failed 4-3, with Chase, Payne and Varney voting in favor.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net