Falmouth council sets new track for town center project

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council has determined how it will proceed on creation of a proposed “town center” at the Plummer-Motz and Lunt schools.

After a lengthy and occasionally heated discussion Monday evening, the council decided to discuss options for the library, Town Hall and a proposed community recreation center at a public meeting with the Falmouth Memorial Library board of trustees on Oct. 18 at the library, and then at the next two council meetings.

The council in September declined to put a proposal to borrow up to $4 million on the November ballot. The bond would have asked voters to support moving the library to the soon-to-be vacated Lunt School and the Town Hall to the Plummer School, while creating a community center in the Motz wing. 

During Monday’s meeting, library Vice President Julie Rabinowitz said the trustees have enlisted the services of another consultant who will update a previously published report on the library’s space needs.

“He will be tasked with updating the 2003 Lucker Report to reflect certain trends and standards,” Rabinowitz said. “He will be made available to councilors, the public and library staff.”

The consultant will do the analysis on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 4 and 5, then will present his findings for the first time to trustees and councilors at the Oct. 18 meeting.

That meeting will include a tour of the library and will be open to the public, but public comment will not be allowed. While the meeting will not be televised live, it will be recorded and replayed on Channel 2 the following day.

“The public can and should feel confident they have all the information the trustees have,” Council Chairman Tony Payne said, referring to a group of citizens who complained that an April study of the library’s needs was not included in presentations or made available to the public.

During the meeting, councilors designated Town Manager Nathan Poore as the contact person for the council. Rabinowitz will be the contact person for the library. All communications between the two groups will go through those two people.

“There were too many people talking to too many people,” Councilor Bonny Rodden said of the previous process. 

Councilor Will Armitage expressed concern that the process would become bogged down and that there were not enough deadlines.

“I don’t want to recreate the wheel,” he said. “This shouldn’t take a lot of time to do.”

Armitage suggested the council consider a “request for qualifications” process, which would ask potential architectural firms to submit qualifications to be considered for the project. The town would then choose the firm to work with based on what was submitted. The process differs from a “request for proposals” process, in that it does not require specific plans tailored to the project.

Poore suggested either the RFQ or RFP process would be appropriate, but that the town should hold off until it has a better concept of what the project would entail.

Councilor Cathy Breen on Monday expressed her frustration with the whole process. Breen was one of the liaisons between the Community Facilities Planning Committee and the council when the committee was putting together its initial report, presented earlier this year.

The report was the basis for the proposed bond issue.

“We spent $70,000. We spent oodles of staff time,” Breen said of the committee. “It’s shameful.”

Breen said the library trustees lost their resolve in the process, referring to the board’s recommendation in early September that the bond be delayed in the hopes that a more fiscally prudent measure could be drafted.

Breen also brought up Payne’s involvement with a the citizen group that opposed the bond measure, and discussed his weekly newsletter, which she said he used to put conditions on a previous consensus that he would support the bond measure.

“I hope that if councilors get involved with citizen groups and write petitions, I hope they’ll give us the courtesy to disclose that,” she said. “This has become a political football.”

Payne acknowledged Breen’s concern and said he would do that in the future.

“That’s perfectly fair,” he said.

The council will discuss space needs, renovations and options for Town Hall at its next meeting on Oct. 25. It will discuss the proposed community center at its meeting on Nov. 8.

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