Falmouth council prepares $5.65M town center question for voters

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FALMOUTH — Voters are a Town Council meeting away from deciding whether to establish a community center and library at the Plummer-Motz and Lunt school properties.

During a workshop on Monday, the Town Council discussed and reached consensus on language for a June referendum on the $5.65 million project, which would have a “net-zero” impact on the tax base.

It would offset construction and moving costs with the sale of town properties, fundraising by the Falmouth Memorial Library board of trustees and use of $1.5 million from the town’s undesignated fund balance.

According to the referendum language, all revenues must be in place by June 30, 2015, for the project to be completed.

The project will be also contingent on the sale of the Pleasant Hill Fire Station and the existing library building on Lunt Road. As part of the referendum, the Plummer building will be renovated for a possible tenant if one shows interest in leasing the Middle Road building.

During the workshop, the council discussed dividing the town center decision into two questions. Some councilors favored asking voters for separate decisions on moving the library to the Lunt School building and Community Programs to Motz.

“I think there are people who will vote for a community center and not for the library,” Councilor Faith Varney said. “It seems to me that the library should stand on its own two feet.”

Councilor Cathy Breen pointed out that the council did not need a referendum question to spend the estimated $900,000 to move Community Programs to the Motz building. By charter, a referendum is only required if the council is spending $1 million or more.

“I continue to support having it all in the same question,” Councilor Bonny Rodden said. “If we separate them, it would get away from whole town center idea. That’s part of the allure.”

Council Chairman Tony Payne was also in favor of keeping the two decisions together on the ballot.

“I’ve heard from a vast number of residents that they want to keep this land in public use. That’s something that can’t be ignored,” Payne said. “My apologies to those who called and lobbied hard (against sending the question to referendum), but they called and lobbied hard in small numbers.”

A majority of the councilors were in consensus that the question would not be divided on the ballot.

The council will take public comment and vote on the referendum language March 28, and decide whether to include a statement recommending approval of the question.

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

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