Falmouth council fine-tunes library bond referendum

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FALMOUTH — After yet another long discussion about the language of a Nov. 4 referendum on Falmouth Memorial Library renovations, the Town Council on Monday called for more clarification.

Councilors scheduled more discussion for Sept. 8, and a public hearing for Sept. 22.

Library President Mark Porada broke down the budget, which totals more than $5.6 million: More than $4.3 million for construction and related contingencies, more than $435,000 for other contingencies, $180,000 for fixtures and equipment, $500,000 for architectural and engineering fees, and $150,000 for Depot and Lunt road improvements.

Porada said the town would be committed to 50 percent, or a bond of about $2.8 million.

Following some confusion over what the voters would actually see on Election Day, Town Manager Nathan Poore clarified that only a one-page referendum order and treasurer’s statement, not a multi-page ballot order, would be on the ballot. The ballot order would be available for absentee voters, online, and at polling places if voters want to see ti.

Poore said, however, the question became longer because of requests at the prior council meeting.

“We wanted to insert the part about the advanced borrowing or use of town funds for preliminary design work,” Poore said.

At the last council meeting, there was discussion about further explanation of $400,000 that would go towards design engineering costs. That number was reduced to $300,000 on Monday.

Some councilors were still wary, particularly Councilor Russell Anderson, who expressed concern about where the town would be if the project is not completed.

He also said the town’s commitment of $2.8 million is a risk.

“Financing of this is really squirrely, because the foundation of financing is private fundraising, and we don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Anderson said. “I think there’s significant risk and that $2.8 million is a real stretch. Are we setting this project up for failure by reaching too high with that figure?”

Councilor Sean Mahoney said said the councils’ job is to ensure voters understand the project is for their benefit.

“The council and the (library) board of trustees are both stepping up to fund a really great improvement that is going to be for the benefit of our town for decades,” Mahoney said. “And that’s what I think is more important.” 

In other business, the council:

• Unanimously endorsed three paving projects in the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System 2016-2018 Work Program. According to Poore, the projects will cost $2.5 million.

• Scheduled a hearing for Sept. 22 on acceptance of Farm Gate Road, which connects Clearwater and Lunt roads, and serves 16 lots. 

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.