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Cape Elizabeth council endorses $4M plan for library

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Cape Elizabeth council endorses $4M plan for library

CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council on Wednesday unanimously accepted a report from the Library Planning Committee that proposes a $3.9 million construction and renovation of Thomas Memorial Library.

At its Dec. 2 workshop, the council will discuss the makeup and responsibilities of a Building Committee to guide the construction process. The report recommends that the Building Committee finish its work in time for residents to vote on a $4 million library bond in November 2014.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan said she hopes the Building Committee will be finalized by the end of the year so it can start work in January.

The council's initial reactions to the library plan were positive.

"I'm just absolutely blown away," Chairman James Walsh said. "I'm glad the council had the wisdom to put you folks to work and I'm so happy to hear what's come as a result of these (planning committee) meetings."

"I’m just very, very pleased to see this, and I think the approach we used to dig into the details and get to this kind of place was worth doing,” Walsh said.

Construction accounts for $3.4 million of the project's proposed budget. The report earmarks $538,000 for other costs, including advertising, state and local approvals, land surveying, builder's risk insurance and more.

Last November, voters rejected a $6 million library bond. The council then formed the Library Planning Committee to develop a new plan based on public input. The committee made physical and virtual visits to 22 libraries, and researched comparable library upgrades in Maine.

The new proposal, created by the committee with the help of Reed & Co. Architecture of Portland, seeks to address the library's deficiencies – including accessibility, safety, and building flexibility for future needs – while upgrading to account for technological and community needs expected over the next 25 years.

Taxpayers would fund construction with a 20-year bond, while furnishings would be covered by private fundraising. The impact on the median household would be about $1 a week – or $52 a year in taxes – over the life of the bond, according to the report. Half of all households in Cape Elizabeth would pay less than $1 a week, while one-third of households would pay less than $2 a week, and 13 percent would pay more than $2 a week.

The report calls for restoration and repurposing of the Pond Cove School annex and the construction of a two-story addition, with a children's area and an enclosed outdoor play space. The lower level would include meeting and tutorial rooms available outside of library hours. The plan also includes a reading garden, space for outdoor performances and expanded parking.

While the library would remain in the same place, and its size would increase by just 10 percent, its efficiency – the ratio of usable area to total area – would increase from 69 to 85 percent, the report said. The library's non-assignable space, such as corridors and stairs, would be halved.

In other business, councilors in their annual caucus Wednesday nominated Sullivan to be the new council chairwoman.

"I'm delighted and I look forward to working with all the other councilors," she said.

Walsh, meanwhile, will take replace former Councilor Frank Governali, who chose not to seek re-election, as the Finance Committee chair. Councilor Caitlin Jordan, who was elected to a second term Tuesday, will take over for Sullivan as Appointments Committee chairwoman. Councilor Katharine Ray will remain chairwoman of the Ordinance Committee.

The appointments will be confirmed at a December council meeting.

The council also agreed to hold a workshop on the 2013 Draft Greenbelt Plan on Wednesday, Nov. 13, and to host a public hearing on the subject at its Dec. 9 meeting. The plan has created controversy, most notably for a proposed seaside trail in the Shore Acres neighborhood that could run through private property.

At the Dec. 9 meeting, the council will also hold a public hearing on draft amendments to the town's sign ordinance that would loosen restrictions on sandwich boards and flags outside businesses.

A proposal to ban smoking at Fort Williams Park was referred to the Ordinance Committee, and councilors approved an event called Taste of Maine to be held at the park on June 29, 2014.

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