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Study calls for new, $5M-$8M library in Cape Elizabeth

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Study calls for new, $5M-$8M library in Cape Elizabeth

CAPE ELIZABETH — A report recommending a new, multi-million dollar Thomas Memorial Library is expected to be finalized next week and presented to the Town Council in August.

The Thomas Memorial Study Committee voted earlier this year to accept a report prepared by library consultants Himmel & Wilson that outlined various deficiencies of the current structure on Scott Dyer Road, including a lack of handicapped access and not enough space or floor load capacity.

The firm, along with Casaccio Architects, compiled several options for moving forward, including a possible addition or renovation, or totally new construction.

Due to physical and financial constraints, the committee, chaired by Nancy Marshall, voted to go with a "clean slate" option, which involves removing existing structures and building a new, 22,000-square-foot library at a cost of $5 million to $8 million.

"The clean slate gives us an opportunity to create the most effective and efficient use of space. It's a very difficult lot to work with," Marshall said. Portions of the original 1849 Spurwink School and architectural elements of both the Spurwink and Pond Cove School will be retained and preserved as part of the new structure, but neither will remain in its entirety, according to the decision.

Several possible concept plans involved adding to the Pond Cove School building. But in order to preserve it, that building would have to be moved onto a new foundation. In the end, Marshall said, the committee decided it was more economical not to keep it.

"We would have to move it, and we'd still have a building to renovate," she said.

Plans for a new building include increasing space for the children and teen sections as well as the adult study areas. In addition to the increase in space, the environments for each will change to serve individual and group functions. Meeting room space and staff areas will also be improved, according to the report, which is available on the town Web site.

In its meeting on Thursday, July 16, the study committee will move forward with the final phase of planning, looking at renderings of the new structure's exterior and interior. Marshall said she understands the committee's final report will be brought to the Town Council on Aug. 10, and that a council workshop on the library plans has been set for Sept. 3.

Realizing that economic times are tough – and that the town has several other big-ticket items already on its plate, including a proposed pathway along Shore Road and a possible traffic light in the town center – Marshall said she "wouldn't want to conjecture" what the council's reaction to plan might be.

"Everyone is aware times are very tough," she said. "On the other hand, our consultants have told us that sometimes these are the times to move forward, because construction costs are lower."

Whether or not the council opts to accept the report, table any discussion or go ahead with a public hearing process, Marshall said she hopes the council gives it "serious consideration," and that the town, library and committee will move forward from there.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.