Falmouth council considers referendum on buildings, petition seeks more time

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FALMOUTH — Despite a citizen petition requesting more time to explore other options, a referendum question asking voters if they want to spend $9.5 million, including a $4.5 million bond, to move the Town Hall and library to the Plummer-Motz and Lunt school buildings may be headed for the November ballot. 

The Town Council discussed the issue Monday night, July 26. Some councilors said they’d like to send the question, as presented by the facilities committee, directly to the voters.

“Let’s get the largest group of participants as possible,” Vice Chairwoman Teresa Pierce said. “If the public doesn’t like it, that will give us the time to work on other options. I want to hear from the 10,000 voters of the town.”

However, other councilors noted a petition signed by 70 residents to “postpone any referendum regarding the Lunt and Plummer-Motz school situation until citizens are given an equally detailed alternative for private development.”

“I’m getting concerned about the number of residents asking for more time,” Councilor Bonny Rodden said. “I’m starting to think this should be put off until June (2011).”

Lisa Preney, who lives near the two school buildings, recently started an online Google group called Falmouth Citizens for Sound Choices, and circulated the petition to encourage the council to slow down and explore other options before sending the referendum to voters.

“I went around for three hours and collected 70 signatures,” Preney said during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting. “A lot of people didn’t know this was moving so quickly.”

She said she’d like the concept to be better vetted and include options for public-private partnerships.

Councilor Fred Chase said he would also like to see more exploration of other options. 

“I’m still pushing for a compromise,” Chase said. “I’d like to hear some word from the private sector.”

The council also discussed the possible use of a one-time payout from the Undesignated Fund Balance, or rainy day fund, to cover some costs of the project.

The bond language has not been approved by the council. It states that an amount not to exceed $5 million could be appropriated by the council from the sale of town land, buildings and assets, grant money, and other such available funds, such as the Undesignated Fund Balance, but shall not include funds raised from taxes.

“The Undesignated Fund is like a savings account for a homeowner,” Pierce said. “We can use it for one-time expenses. It’s within our prerogative to do that.”

The council has asked town staff to prepare new cost estimates for the project and speak with commercial real estate brokers about possibilities for the buildings. These details will be presented at the council’s Aug. 9 meeting.

The council will then hold a public hearing on the question at its Aug. 23 meeting. The final draft of the referendum question must be voted on at the first council meeting in September to make the deadline for the November ballot.

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

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METRO bus schedule change gets Falmouth council backing

FALMOUTH — The Town Council seemed to satisfy everyone Monday night when it voted unanimously to send changes in the Falmouth Flyer bus schedule to METRO for approval.

The changes will add two new stops during the day at the Town Market bus stop on Route 88 and remove them from the Ocean View stop.

All of the buses from 8:55 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. now stop at Ocean View only, tailoring the Town Market route for early morning and evening commuters.

Now, the bus will stop at the Town Market at 9:55 a.m. and 12:55 p.m. in addition to the commuter stops.

“There are very different needs in each community,” said Annie Finch, who heads the Friends of the Falmouth Flyer organization. “We are just trying to make the schedule more friendly so more people will use it.”

During a public hearing, several people from Ocean View spoke in favor of the change, while others took the opportunity to share their support for the bus in general.

“We’re very grateful for all of you who allowed us to have mid-day buses,” said Tess Parish, who lives at Applegate.

Councilor Bonny Rodden, who represents Falmouth on the METRO Board, said the changes could go into effect as early as Sept. 12.

— Emily Parkhurst

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