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Cape Elizabeth Town Council sends $4M library renovation plan to voters

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Cape Elizabeth Town Council sends $4M library renovation plan to voters

CAPE ELIZABETH — After defeating a referendum in 2012, voters will have a chance in November to approve a more modest renovation plan for Thomas Memorial Library.

The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved the plan, which will ask residents to borrow $4 million for the project. Councilors also approved a $200,000 contingency fund and $150,000 to construct a temporary library at the former Spurwink School.

The plan defeated in 2012 was for a $6 million renovation, and the Library Building Committee is hoping to avoid a similar outcome this year. Councilor and building committee chairwoman Molly MacAuslan said the committee has increased community outreach since the latest proposal took shape eight months ago.

"The last thing we wanted was to deliver a plan that failed to meet residents' needs and expectations and which was too expensive and out of character for the library's environment and the town's culture," MacAuslan said.

The building committee has been working with Cynthia Loebenstein and Richard Reed of Reed and Co. Architecture to design a modern building to meet the needs of the town, MacAuslan said.

She said the library is in need of an update, and the failed 2012 referendum interrupted the town's tradition of updating the library every couple of decades.

"Our proposed plan carries on a 70 year tradition in Cape Elizabeth of enhancing and upgrading library facilities every 20 years or so," MacAuslan said.

Under the new plan, a 1985 connector building between the main library and the children's library will be replaced with a two-story, 13,000-square-foot building. The existing main library will be renovated and the children's library will be moved to the lower level. After the the Spurwink School is used as a temporary library, it will be used for storage.

The current entrance to the library will be replaced with a covered entrance and will have a drop-off loop for cars where the current parking lot is. A new, 53-space, landscaped parking lot will be created on what is now a grassy area.

Also outside will be a children's reading garden and play space. At the center of the north wall of the library, a stairway will be renovated to include a glass wall looking into the library. At night, a light will highlight the new features, making it visible from the road.

"This can be lit at night and act as a beacon for the library," Reed said.

New features inside the library, in addition to the children's area, will include computers and media labs, spaces for studying, and meeting rooms. Some of these spaces will be available during non-library hours. There will also be a new young adult section that will be visible from the circulation desk.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan was enthusiastic about the project and expressed gratitude to the committee for the work it has done.

"The design team and the building committee's hard work has really paid off," Sullivan said. "They have sought citizen input throughout their process. This tremendous outreach effort involving a broad reach of our townspeople including school children and our elderly has helped to shape an outstanding and creative plan for our library's future."

In addition to the $4 million bond, voters must also vote on the contingency fund and the funds for the temporary library. MacAuslan said the committee is committed to keeping the costs down to $4 million and she said she hopes they won't need to use the extra $200,000.

"While we don't expect that we'll need to spend the $200,000 contingency, I think we'd like the authorization in advance should the need arise," MacAuslan said. "I do think that providing contingency means that we can responsibly address any surprises that we might find in a hundred year old building."

Sullivan said she is sure the town will support the plan and that she doesn't expect a repeat of the 2012 vote.

"I am highly confident voters are going to approve it," she said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.