FALMOUTH — Voters in November will be asked to borrow another $500,000 to help make up a funding deficit for the expansion of Falmouth Memorial Library.
The Town Council on Monday voted 5-2 to put the bond referendum on the ballot, with Councilors Andrea Ferrante and Aaron Svedlow opposed. Chairman Caleb Hemphill said he hopes “very much this results in the library Falmouth wants and needs.”
The town is already putting up $2.81 million for the library project and will be required to add the $500,000 to its debt obligations if the bond issue is approved by voters.
Over the past four years the town and the library have raised $5.6 million for renovating and expanding the library.
But earlier this summer the library board of trustees learned projected construction costs had increased substantially.
In late July, library President Marsha Clark told councilors the project was over budget by $2.2 million, but by re-evaluating some project components the board was able to reduce the increase by $1.2 million.
That left a $1 million hole to fill, which was the original request by the board to the council. Earlier this month the library reduced its request to $500,000.
It has pledged to raise the remaining $500,000 and Clark has repeatedly said the library would also continue to do everything in its power to cut costs where possible without compromising the overall vision for the project.
In supporting the new library bond, the council majority said it was both a reasonable request and a good solution to the construction funding woes. The library now has until Jan. 31 to raise its share of the money.
In defending the project from critics who feel library leaders should modify the project to meet the original budget, Clark said Falmouth has the largest population and smallest library among most surrounding towns, as well as the highest circulation and number of visitors.
She called the library “a very heavily used building” and said “there’s a lot we can’t do right now” because of space issues. In addition, Clark said the design for the new library was created with community input and it’s designed to be “flexible, adaptable and efficient.”
Clark also said a November vote is needed because the library is housed in a “building that’s decaying” and the costs for upkeep “keeping adding up.”
Speaking in favor of the additional library bond Monday, India Broyles, a former member of the library board, said the design voters approved four years ago is “forward-thinking and innovative.”
Like Clark, Broyles said the library is “continuing to deteriorate (and) we need (the town’s) support to expand the library we all love.”
Ellen Conway, the assistant library director, said, “We have an obligation to build the building the donors and voters approved. It would be irresponsible to ignore the time and effort already spent on this project.”
She also argued that “every dollar the library spends is done thoughtfully and carefully.”
But John Winslow, who opposes the new spending, said the library should “change course to make (the original $5.6) million work,” adding, “we are in the electronic age and we don’t need a repository for books” anymore.
Bob Hunt agreed, saying there’s “nothing unusual or unfair in modifying a building project” due to cost constraints.
“It’s time to bring this project to a close for whatever $5.6 million will build,” Hunt said. “That’s the financially prudent and right thing to do.”
Earlier this year Falmouth Memorial Library President Marsha Clark, left, and Director Andi Jackson-Darling celebrated what they thought was the end of fundraising for a library expansion project.