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Property purchase the 'key ingredient' for Falmouth library expansion

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Property purchase the 'key ingredient' for Falmouth library expansion

FALMOUTH — A fundraising feasibility study for a $5 million library expansion plan is taking shape, while the clock is slowly ticking away on an option to purchase adjacent land for the project.

This week, about 60 Falmouth residents and business owners will receive letters from Ovation Fundraising Counsel, a company that has been hired by Falmouth Memorial Library to help raise capital for the proposed expansion, said Mark Porada, the library's board president.

In the coming months, Ovations hopes to schedule meetings with letter recipients to discuss the project and solicit feedback.

The outreach is part of a study that will provide an estimate of how much money can be raised through private and corporate donations. That information will be shared with the Town Council in March, before the offer to purchase land adjacent to the 5 Lunt Road library expires on April 15.

The neighboring property, 9 Lunt Road, has been the subject of several discussions during planning workshops and Town Council meetings. The library board has said the land is a critical element to the expansion, but at least one town councilor has misgivings about the cost.

Throughout those meetings, a shorthand phrase has developed. The lot and its single-family home are simply called the "Kowalsky property."

Lunt Road legacy

In April 2005, John and Loreen Kowalsky purchased 9 Lunt Road for $321,250. It is a three-bedroom, two bath, Cape Cod-style home on a 0.6-acre, mostly wooded lot.

The property is now under option for purchase by the town for $315,000, or $6,250 less than the Kowalskys paid almost nine years ago.

According to 2013 tax assesment records, the appraised and assessed values are identical: $292,700. The land alone is valued at $116,800. The house and an outbuilding are valued at $175,900.

According to the same records, the Kowalskys have updated the kitchen cabinets and flooring, but that's a moot point because the library intends to raze the home to make room for a parking lot.

If the deal goes throgh, John Kowalsky said he and his wife will search for a new home in Falmouth with a roomier yard for their 8-year-old son.

The couple has no qualms about their home of nearly nine years being demolished, Kowalsky said. The family has moved around the country often – inhabiting six homes in 17 years – so they're not sentimental about houses.

"It's something we were OK with doing," Kowalsky, 47, said. "We don't have those kinds of emotions that my mom and dad would have had, or the previous owner might have had. (The library) is a nice cause, I think."

The house was built in the early 1960s and originally owned by Wayne Hale.

Hale, now 76 and living in Portland, said he's not bothered by the prospect of bulldozers knocking over his former home of nearly 40 years.

"Well, I don't have any sentimental attachment to it," he said. "It was a home – a nice home. It served its purpose and we've moved on. As far as what they're doing, it seems rather extravagant to spend that kind of money for a parking lot. On the other hand, I'm not the one who's paying for it."

Porada said the historic value of the house is nominal, if any, and its demolition will serve the greater good.

"It's really the key ingredient," he said of the expansion plan. "We are hopeful that the library and the town together will be able to move forward, acquire the property and put it to good civic use," he said.

The expansion proposal also calls for demolition of the library's Iverson House, construction of a new 11,320-square-foot addition, and renovation of an existing 7,280-square-foot space.

In all, the library would grow by 73 percent to a total of 18,600 square feet on a single floor. Currently, the library is about 10,700 square feet.

The cost breakdown for the estimated $5 million project is about $3.2 million for the new construction and $320,000 to renovate existing space (based on rate estimates of $290 per square foot for energy efficient construction and materials, plus $45 per square foot renovations).

The library opened in 1952 and was originally a home. A $1.25 million wing was added in 1995, doubling the overall size at the time.

Falmouth Memorial Library is a private nonprofit, not an entity of the town. Still, about 75 percent of the library's budget is taxpayer-funded.

If the deal for the Kowalsky property goes through, it will be the second time that land from 9 Lunt Road will have been conveyed to the library.

In the mid-1990s, during the library's previous expansion, Hale agreed to swap a 0.6-acre swath of land with the library. The swap moved the shared property line closer to Hale's house, but it also extended the Hale family's holdings, at the time, from Lunt Road to Depot Road.

That new parcel – 70 Depot Road – now boasts a three-bedroom Cape, which is owned by Hale's wife and is home to Hale's son.

Wayne Hale said he is somewhat concerned about the library parking lot expanding toward that property, but said the library has always been a good neighbor.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.