Falmouth Town Council endorses $2.8M bond for library

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday unanimously endorsed a bond referendum to borrow up to slightly more than $2.8 million for renovation of Falmouth Memorial Library.

The council voted 6-0, with Councilor Claudia King absent. 

In its last chance for action, the council voted on three separate orders, and suspended rules to allow public comment. The council had already held a public hearing on Aug. 25, so did not have to allow public comment at Monday’s meeting.

Councilors first voted on the bond order, which authorizes the town to spend $2.8 million to finance half the cost of renovations and expansion at the Lunt Road library. The other half will be provided by a capital campaign run by the library.

The council then formally submitted the bond order to referendum on Nov. 4, with an amendment saying the council recommends passage of the referendum.

Councilor Russell Anderson said that while he doesn’t “think any project has a right to taxpayer money just because it’s a good idea,” this project has evolved over time because of multiple conversations, and that he supported all three votes on the matter.

Finally, councilors approved an order for the town manager to execute a Memorandum of Understanding between the library and the town. 

During the public comment portion, speakers representing the library said they were grateful for the council’s help in the process. 

Library President Mark Porada broke down several estimates for significant maintenance and repairs over the next five years in the current library that would cost more than $336,000 and be included in the project.

They include replacing carpets, updating the sprinkler system, replacing the front brick hallways, updating windows, replacing the inadequate roof structure of the Iverson portion and switching to natural gas.

Porada also said projected pre-construction costs for library expansion would cost $302,000. This would include design development, survey revisions, construction documents and bidding, plus others, which would occur in the nine-month period leading up to construction.

The cost per square foot for the project, according to Porada, is a little over $300, which includes demolition and construction.

The council also scheduled a Sept. 22 public hearing on the referendum. This is a legal requirement, according to Council Chairwoman Karen Farber, and not an opportunity for persuasion of the council. She said a public hearing on the referendum had to happen before the November vote, but not before the council made its decisions.

Councilors also unanimously confirmed the appointment of Allison Bishop to another, three-year term on the library board of trustees.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Council OKs Mason-Motz renovations

FALMOUTH — Following a lengthy discussion Monday, the Town Council approved funding for renovations at the Mason-Motz Facility.

The council voted 4-2, with Councilors Russell Anderson and Charles McBride opposed, and Councilor Claudia King absent.

Funding for the supplemental appropriation would come from the Unassigned Fund Balance.

The orders allow for just under $1 million to be used in renovating an abandoned school into a community center. The cost will include the base bid for the project, as well as two alternate bids.

The first will go to administrative office space upgrades and the second will go to the Plummer building’s exterior and interior repairs.

Had the project cost more than $1 million, it would have had to go to a referendum no sooner than next June, which would have meant no renovations during that time.

The council was divided by a need for renovations to the building and a desire not to shortchange the project.

“This is a missed opportunity,” Anderson said. He said the project was a “million dollar investment” without a real vision of how it is going to be achieved.

Councilor David Goldberg said that “regardless of vision,” the renovations have to be made, or the only viable option would be selling the property.

The council agreed there is a need for a community center, and Chairwoman Karen Farber said this would be the better option since the town already owns the building.

“We need to invest in it, and if not we need to move on,” Farber said. She added that it was highly unlikely the town would acquire land to build a community center and have costs be less than they are now.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.