Falmouth councilors find consensus on town center compromise

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FALMOUTH — After more than a year of debate and discussion, the Town Council reached consensus Monday on a plan for Falmouth Memorial Library and a community center at the soon-to-be vacated Plummer-Motz and Lunt school buildings.

“This has been like herding amoebas,” Council Chairman Tony Payne said after the meeting. “There’s been a lot of compromise. No one’s getting their first choice.”

The draft plan, which, when completed, is projected to have a “net-zero” impact on the tax rate, includes moving the library from its existing location to the Lunt School and creating a community center in the Motz building and Mason gymnasium.

The cost of the estimated $6 million project will be offset by the sale of the existing library building, leasing the Plummer building, selling land behind the Lunt building, $1.25 million in fundraising by the library and use of the town’s undesignated fund balance.

Moving the library to Lunt was estimated to cost $3.38 million, while building a new building on the property between the two school buildings was estimated at just over $4 million. Library trustees have said their preference is to move to Lunt.

A previously discussed option of expanding the existing library was ruled out in previous discussions.

Town Hall will stay where it is and would have only $200,000 in renovations, rather than the $700,000 proposed in earlier options.

“While a reduction in Town Hall renovations will help the town get by in the immediate short run, the $500,000 expense may be necessary in the next 10 years,” Town Manager Nathan Poore said in a memo to councilors last week.

The Plummer building will get $1.5 million in renovations to bring it up to code and remove hazardous materials so that it can be leased, potentially to Child Development Services, a quasi-state agency.

The plan also factors in $150,000 in revenue from the proposed sale of the Pleasant Hill Fire Station.

The proposed plan includes a variance of $500,000 in case the town-owned properties do not sell for the amounts projected, as well as an upper and lower range of estimates for the library-to-Lunt scenario.

Currently the proposal comes in between $33,000 and $400,000 over the goal of a zero impact.

“We would like to get the upper end as close to zero as possible,” Poore said Monday.

The council charged town staff with putting together a referendum that will be sent to voters in June. At the council’s Feb. 28 meeting, it will discuss the proposed language and any last funding options to bring the project to a zero impact on the tax rate.

“We all had to give up something, but in the end, we came up with a scenario that is really good for the town,” Councilor Bonny Rodden said after the meeting. “This is really forward-thinking and is not going to raise anyone’s taxes.”

The council will have a public hearing on the issue on March 14, when it will vote on the referendum language.

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

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