Forecaster Forum: Facts, figures don't support Falmouth library, Town Hall proposals
The Falmouth Town Council is in the process of crafting a referendum question to be voted on by residents asking if they want to spend close to $10 million to move the Falmouth Memorial Library and the Town Hall to the soon-to-be-abandoned Plummer-Motz and Lunt school property.
The notion of using Lunt and Plummer-Motz as the new homes of the library and Town Hall makes sense only if they both need to move.
Falmouth Memorial Library does not need to move from its current location and the Town Hall offices need to stay in the real center of Falmouth.
The library board of trustees and the architectural firm that designed the mid-1990s renovations and addition went to great lengths to approve a design that not only produced a state-of-the-art library to meet existing needs, but could easily and economically be expanded to meet future needs as the town grew. The final design accomplished both those goals. Until the population reached 15,000 to 20,000 there was no compelling reason to consider further expansion.
In 2003 the library commissioned a consultant to assess those needs. The resulting report recommended an additional 3,900 square feet be added that would serve the needs of a population of 13,500. Since that figure was not expected to be reached until at least 2020, the recommendation to add 3,900 square feet in 2003 seems, at best, odd.
Realistic anticipated population growth together with the acknowledged ability to expand the library at its present location are compelling evidence the mid 1990s renovation and expansion continue to serve the town well now and into the realistic future.
In 2007 another consultant created three options for on site expansion, with price tags ranging from $3.2 million to $3.9 million.
In March 2010 the library hired a structural engineer to explore the feasibility and practically of expanding the building on site. His findings and conclusions are enlightening.
He included structural, mechanical and electrical systems reviews as part of his analysis. He concluded that two or more stories could be added over the top of the original building and the section connecting it to the mid-1990s addition. Adding just one story would create 4,000 square feet of new usable space.
It is his opinion such an addition together with an elevator, some first-floor renovations, a parameter drain, driveway and sidewalk improvements would cost approximately $800,000.
This estimate is dramatically less than the $5 million it would cost to move the library to Lunt or $3.7 million for on-site renovations the town presented to the public in August.
The engineer’s analysis did not address the possibility of adding a second story over the mid-1990s addition, which would create several thousand more square feet of usable space.
Furthermore, there is also the possibility of expanding the library without adding a second story or in combination with a second story. Either way several thousand more square feet of usable space could be created.
It is crystal clear there are several far more economical, cost-effective, practical and common-sense alternatives to moving the library to Lunt School.
It is also important to consider that just as in the mid-1990s, many folks do not want the library to move from its current location. They are happy with the current level and quality of services and see no compelling reasons for it to move anywhere. Those opinions are probably shared by the majority of Falmouth residents.
Since there are fewer employees at Town Hall and more is being done electronically, it truly makes sense for town services to remain in the present facility. With these facts in mind and using input from the employees, the town has spent time and money to redesign and renovate the second-floor offices and heating system. All of this work was done at substantial savings to the town.
As a continuation of this process price quotes for roof, side, insulation and replacement of windows in the entire building have been received. This work and other capital maintenance can and should be done over time.
Further action along these lines will allow us to use Town Hall well into the future.
We elect town councilors to make decisions based on complete information and only ask the taxpayers to fund those that pass the straight-face test of real need. These are just a few of the reasons why we are asking the Town Council to not vote for a referendum on the ballot in November.
Bob Hunt is is a former Falmouth Memorial Library trustee. Bill Lunt III is a member of the Falmouth Planning Board, former town councilor and former member of the Board of Assessment Review. Both are members of Falmouth Citizens for Sound Choices.