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Cape Elizabeth library bond: 'Right price at the right time'?

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Cape Elizabeth library bond: 'Right price at the right time'?

CAPE ELIZABETH — Voters on Nov. 4 will be asked to decide on a renovation bond for Thomas Memorial Library that is less expensive than a failed referendum two years ago.

The renovations would cost $4 million, opposed to the $6 million borrowing plan presented to voters in 2012.

The Town Council in August approved the new plan, along with a $200,000 contingency fund and $150,000 to construct a temporary library at the former Spurwink School, behind the library.

"We have the right project at the right price at the right time," Councilor and library building committee Chairwoman Molly MacAuslan said.

MacAuslan said the cost of the project would add less than $50 a year to the median household tax bill, or about the cost of two new hardcover books. As for the contingency fund, MacAuslan in August said the building committee doesn't anticipate having to spend the $200,000.

The committee has been working with Richard Reed of Reed and Co. Architecture in Portland to design the new library at 6 Scott Dyer Road. 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. MacAuslan said it will be 10 percent larger than the current library, but will be 40 percent more efficient in how it will be laid out.

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.

There also will be a children's reading garden and outdoor 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 the building visible from the road.

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.

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

MacAuslan said a renovated and modern library would show that Cape Elizabeth is "a forward-looking community."

"For the future, we'll be able to offer all sorts of interesting new programs," she said.

However, not everyone agrees.

"I think the library's fine the way it is," Bill De Sena, the Republican candidate in state Senate District 29, said during an Oct. 15 candidates forum. "I don't understand why we cannot consolidate libraries. Today is the world of technology."

De Sena said Cape Elizabeth already has "enough financial problems on our plate right now" and that money shouldn't be spent on a new library.

MacAuslan said libraries are being redefined and that a new library would have many functions and would be a gathering place for people of all ages.

"It's a way keeping folks in town engaged in learning and participating," she said.

Election Day is Nov. 4. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Cape Elizabeth High School gym.

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