Panel crafts $4M plan to renovate Cape Elizabeth library

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Library Planning Committee on Nov. 6 will propose a plan worth approximately $4 million to the Town Council for renovation and new construction at Thomas Memorial Library.

Pending council approval and preliminary work by a Building Committee, residents could be asked to vote on the plan in November 2014.

Last November, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed $6 million library bond. The council then formed the Library Planning Committee to develop a new plan based on public input. The committee also visited several libraries and studied other library renovation projects.

The plan, created by the committee with the help of Reed & Co. Architecture of Portland, seeks to address the library’s deficiencies – including accessibility, water infiltration and electrical power capacity – while modernizing the facility to account for technological and community needs over the next 25 years.

“It is more economic, and serves the community better, to undertake renovation/new construction than address every individual deficiency discretely,” a draft of the committee’s analysis said.

Taxpayers would fund construction with a 20-year bond, while furnishings would be covered by 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 a draft of the plan provided this week. 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 new plan, released at the committee’s meeting on Monday, Oct. 28, 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, including a large, dividable space to accommodate up to 130 people. The ceiling would be raised to nine feet.

The library would remain in the same place. Its square footage would increase by 10 percent, more than doubling the size of the circulation desk and space for technical services, and the children’s area would be expanded.

The plan also includes a reading garden, space for outdoor performances and expanded parking. A new path between the library and Pond Cove Elementary School would be created to encourage shared resources.

The connector between the Pond Cove School annex and the Spurwink School building would be removed. The Spurwink building would no longer be part of the library, and the plan makes no recommendation for its future use. This would be done in part to streamline the library, which currently has several levels, a result of its being made up of five different buildings cobbled together.

The Spurwink building could serve as a temporary library during construction. The Planning Committee this week was working to pinpoint costs associated with making the building usable for that purpose, including potential heating and security work and the construction of a temporary utility entrance.

The committee on Monday discussed the importance of acquiring Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

“That’s a very expensive plaque,” Councilor Frank Governali said.

Also under the committee’s plan, the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society would no longer be housed in the library. It could perhaps go in the Spurwink building, the committee said.

“They provide a valuable service,” Councilor Jessica Sullivan said, “but we’ve determined that they’re not legally (a town agency).”

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