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Cape Elizabeth referendums: Charter change, $6M for library

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Cape Elizabeth referendums: Charter change, $6M for library

CAPE ELIZABETH — Voters in November will decide whether to borrow $6 million for a new library, and if the Town Charter should be amended.

The decision about a new library looked like it would be made by the Town Council, until councilors in May agreed to send it to a public referendum.

In addition to the bond, the town will need to raise about $1.5 million privately to fully fund the project, putting the total estimated project cost at about $7.5 million.

The existing Thomas Memorial Library, on Scott Dyer Road, is a series of old buildings that started as a one-room school house built in 1849. Since then, it has moved three times and had five additions.

Inside, the library's disjointed adult and children sections both lack bathrooms on the upper levels. The building also lacks storage space for books and other materials, and currently uses the boiler room, sprinkler room and a closet attached to the children's room as makeshift storage units.

It is also not accessible to people in wheelchairs.

The library averages 1,600 visits per week and is the 10th busiest library in Maine for inter-library loans, according to the Committee for the Thomas Memorial Library.

The library bond also played a role in the proposed amendment to the Town Charter that is on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Residents raised concerns during the bond discussion about how much money the council can decide to spend without a public vote.

The proposal came out of that and would amend the charter to require any single capital expenditure that exceeds $1 million to automatically trigger a public referendum.

Under the existing charter, residents have to petition the Town Council to get a referendum for any large, single expenditure. Funding packages that exceed $1 million, but are made up of multiple projects that individually total less than $1 million, would not be subject to the referendum under the proposed charter amendment.

The referendum would not apply to state and federally mandated projects, or any improvements required due to fire or other catastrophe.

Voting on Election Day will be conducted from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on at Cape Elizabeth High School.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.