Residents imagine Falmouth's future
FALMOUTH — Organizers of last week's public meeting that addressed the future of town facilities say they were pleased by the turnout, input and involvement of the 140 attendees.
Theo Holtwijk, the town's director of long-range planning, said the residents' responses at the March 12 Community Facilities Planning Project will "help develop a consensus on what (the town) ought to be doing."
"The challenge was to get a community with wide-ranging opinions collectively to think about things and tap into what they're thinking," he said. "We were able to do all the things we hoped we would do."
Participants used keypad voting to answer a
65-question survey covering possible future uses for town-owned
properties, including the Pleasant Hill Fire Station, Falmouth
Memorial Library, Town Hall and the schools. While their responses
were immediately tabulated and flashed on a screen, those who did not
attend may also take the survey, available on the town's Web site,
town.falmouth.me.us, through Friday, March 27. As of Monday, more than 150 people have completed the survey online, Holtwijk said.
Results of the meeting demonstrated that the public recognizes what a "huge opportunity" the Plummer-Motz/Lunt schools property gives the town, whether the end result is for public or private use, he said.
Councilor Cathy Breen, who chairs the Facilities Committee, said the group must now analyze the information gleaned from the survey and comments to "make some decisions on what to propose."
"I'm hoping that the data we gathered last Thursday and over the Web site will illuminate that and give us a good indication of what the town feels are important buildings and locations and that it will help guide us," Breen said.
Although Town Manager Nathan Poore said he went into the event "without any expectations whatsoever," he thought some of the results were "interesting."
One response Poore said surprised him was that only 22 percent of those in attendance said it was important or very important that Town Hall should remain in the same place. Seventy-two percent said it wasn't important, with 6 percent saying they didn't know. Poore said he had always believed there was a strong feeling that Town Hall shouldn't move.
While Councilor Tony Payne said he was "delighted" to be having the conversation about the facilities, he said he was disappointed that the committee was asking for preliminary decisions without knowing costs. In addition, some the the properties, he said, should be returned to the tax rolls.
"I think the questions were all good ones and I think the people that were attracted to that (meeting) were self-selected," he said. "I'm not going to dismiss their opinions, but I'm not sure it's a representative sample of the town as a whole."
Payne said he would like to hear more from owners of Ocean View, which abuts the school property. The retirement community has in the past expressed a desire to purchase the property and might be willing to consider a collaboration with the town, Payne said. In addition, he said the town needs to look at more fully utilizing the growing school campus and other public buildings to fulfill the space needs for community activities on weekends and evenings, saying the town must "determine the least amount of space required to meet those needs."
"One thing Falmouth has done is persistently expand its services; it very seldom takes away," he said. "I believe we are beginning to reach the limits of people being able to pay for those services."
Survey responses included:
• 53 percent said they would support closing the Pleasant Hill Fire Station, while 16 percent would not and 31 percent said they didn't know.
• 83 percent said the town needs a Town Hall.
• 99 percent said the town needs a library.
• 61 percent said the town needs a post office.
• 69 percent said the town needs an intergenerational recreation/community center.
• 59 percent said the town needs a community swimming pool.
• 62 percent said it is important for the town to retain ownership of and public or civic use and access to all of the Plummer-Motz and Lunt schools property.
• 72 percent would like town offices to be located at the schools property.
• 79 percent would like the library to be located at the schools property.
• 77 percent would like an intergenerational recreation/community center to be located at the schools property.
• 67 percent would like meeting space and offices for non-profit organizations to be at the schools property.