Falmouth library seeks Nov. 4 vote on expansion

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday was receptive to a request from the Falmouth Memorial Library board to hold a voter referendum on a bond for library expansion, but showed concern about the board’s ability to fund half the project.

Board President Mark Porada asked the council to schedule a November referendum on a $2.8 million bond to cover half of the roughly $5.6 million project.

The library would raise an additional $2.8 million privately to cover the rest of the cost. Fundraising would take about a year and begin in earnest if the referendum passes, Porada said.

A feasibility study conducted earlier this year by Ovations Fundraising Counsel of Bangor found that the library could reasonably expect to raise only $2.5 million for the expansion.

Porada said that was a conservative estimate.

“We’re optimistic that hopefully we can raise a little bit more,” he said.

But they may need to raise a lot more.

Councilor Russell Anderson noted that the nearly $300,000 the town in March agreed to loan to the library for the purchase of a neighboring property – one the board called essential to the library expansion – was not figured into the costs. That raises the cost of the overall project to about $5.9 million, well above the $5 million figure presented to the council last year.

“I’ve always been in favor of this project,” Anderson said. “I want this to go through. But I want the town’s portion to be capped at 50 percent, and I want to know that the other 50 percent is a viable number.”

Porada argued that the loan for the Kowalsky property, at 6 Lunt Road, is separate and does not count toward the expansion budget. But he conceded that the board would have to raise a total of $3.1 million in the near future.

Councilors will begin reviewing language for a referendum, and a related memorandum of understanding between the town and library, at an Aug. 11 meeting. The consensus Monday was that those items should state that no bonds will be issued until the library has secured the funds for its share of the cost.

“I don’t think we want to start the project without a pretty darn clear view that the money is there,” Council Chairwoman Karen Farber said. “The last thing anybody wants is a not-quite-done project.”

After reviewing a potential referendum item, the council could hold a September public hearing on the bond in advance of the Nov. 4 election, Town Manager Nathan Poore said.

The expansion project would nearly double the library’s size while reducing its utility bills. The design includes increased programming space, new study and meeting rooms, a dedicated computer area, and increased natural light.

The library board hopes to begin construction in 2015 or 2016. The work is expected to take up to 10 months.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.