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'Town center' referendum fails in Falmouth

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'Town center' referendum fails in Falmouth

FALMOUTH — After an emotionally charged, divisive campaign, Question 1, the so-called "town center" referendum, was defeated Tuesday by a vote of 1,938 to 1,777.

More than 42 percent of registered voters turned out at the polls. Question 2, the school budget, and Question 3, the wood-chip boiler for the middle school, both passed.

"Common sense prevailed," said Dave Libby, a former town councilor and co-founder of Falmouth Citizens for Sound Choices, which opposed the referendum. "I think through the new electronic media, like the Google Group, we were able to get the facts out and the facts prevailed."

The $5.65 million plan would have turned the Lunt School building into a space for Falmouth Memorial Library, created a community center at the Motz School and converted the Plummer School into a building available for lease to a private organization or business.

The plan was contingent on the sale of property behind the school buildings and the existing library building on 5 Lunt Road, as well as a $1.25 million fundraising effort by the library Board of Trustees.

The town would have also contributed $1.5 million from its undesignated fund balance, or "rainy day fund."

"There was no mandate there," said Councilor Teresa Pierce, who won re-election Tuesday night and had supported Question 1. "It was a hard-fought campaign. And it was close."

The buildings will be vacated by the School Department this summer, as a new elementary school on Woodville Road is prepared to open. It will be up to the council to decide the fate of the buildings.

The $26.2 million school budget passed Tuesday night by a more than 2-to-1 margin, 2,622 to 1,002. The budget includes a tax increase of 6.3 percent.

Question 3 asked voters to approve a bond of up to $1.2 million for a new wood chip boiler for the middle school, which currently uses two aging oil furnaces for heat.

In addition to the bond, the nearly $2 million project would be paid for by a $500,000 grant from the Maine Forest Service and funds from the School Department's capital improvement fund.

That question passed 2,652 to 979.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.