Falmouth voters OK additional borrowing for library expansion

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FALMOUTH — Voters backed supplemental borrowing for a long-planned library expansion project Tuesday, 4,295 to 3,108. 

Residents also approved two Town Charter amendments, according to Town Clerk Ellen Planer.

Falmouth Memorial Library trusteed learned last summer they will need at least $1 million more to complete the expansion and renovation project, which received initial voter approval in 2014.

Library leaders said they would raise $500,000 privately if the town could borrow an additional $500,000 to support the project. Four years ago voters agreed to borrow $2.81 million for library construction that was originally slated to cost $5.6 million.

“We’re very excited by the outcome and want to sincerely thank all those who came out to support the library,” Steven Knapp, president of the library board said.

“(Tuesday’s) vote demonstrates how important the library is to so many and the value it adds to the community. We have a lot of work in front of us, but this was a significant step toward building the library our town needs,” Knapp said.

The goal of the project is to enlarge the library to 18,000 square feet and provide a separate youth services wing and reading room, along with increased access to technology, among other updates.

Library leaders have told the Town Council the cost overrun was due to a “perfect storm” of increased construction costs, labor shortages and unexpected site-related expenses.

On its website, the library pledged to “continue to work with its architect and construction manager to further bring costs down on the project without sacrificing the project’s integrity.”

“Any cost savings will be shared equally between the town and the library, thus reducing the bond amount,” according to the statement on the website. “The library takes very seriously this request for additional funding and will do everything in its power to access the minimum of funds required.”

Voters on Tuesday also overwhelmingly approved both charter amendments. One dealt mostly with a variety of administrative changes, including barring employees of the School Department or library from running for Town Council. That measure passed easily, 4,031 to 1,472.

The other charter question sought approval to raise the $1 million threshold for requiring a referendum vote on capital expenditures to $2 million. That measure also passed, 3,205 to 2,483.

Voters who visited the polls Tuesday said they were motivated to take part because of the importance of this year’s midterms. The majority of them said they were part of the so-called “Blue Wave” of Democrats.

Olivia Peelen, who was a first-time voter, said she cast a ballot “because I felt passionately about making sure my voice was heard. I voted mostly Democrat and independent, mostly because those candidates reflected my values.”

Sara Strassenrieter paused after voting to take a selfie with her infant daughter. She planned to post the photo online to show that she’d voted. “It was very important to turn out today,” she said.

Most of the residents questioned also said they supported the ranked-choice voting option for Congressional candidates and didn’t have any trouble using the newly implemented system.

In the election that saw high voter turnout at nearly every polling place, Planer said “it was absolutely insane” at Falmouth High School on Tuesday. When she arrived to open the polls “there was a line around the side of the building” and “we had a double circle inside.”

Planer said the town also experienced a higher than normal number of new voter registrations.

“I’ve seen a lot of new faces (this morning),” she said. “The turnout is wonderful.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Falmouth Town Clerk Ellen Planer said the town saw huge voter turnout in Tuesday’s elections. Voters were lined up outside before 7 a.m. and all day a steady stream of voters filled the voting booths.

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