ROCKPORT — Voters in Rockport said OK to borrowing $1.5 million to help fund the construction of a new library in Rockport Village. They also approved a bridge loan to fund the library construction as pledges materialize. There were 2,124 voters who visited the polls in Rockport Nov. 6, voted early or voted by absentee ballot.
With the approval of the library bond the town can proceed on hiring a contractor to build a $3.5 million library. A fundraising group, organized as the Rockport Library Foundation, is presently soliciting $2 million or more in private donations to help build the new 7,000-square-foot structure on the corner of Russell Ave., and Limerock, Union and Central streets.
The final but unofficial tally was for the library was:
The library question was:
“To see if the town will vote to:
(1) Approve the design, site preparation, construction and equipping of a new library building, including all other expenses related thereto (the ‘Project’);
(2) Authorize the Select Board to accept grants/donations for the Project and appropriate the total amount if grants/donations for the costs of the Project.
(3) Appropriate the sum of $1.5 million as funds for the costs of the Project to be funded through general obligation bonds; and
(4) Authorize the Select Board to issue, at one time or from time to time, general obligation securities of the Town of Rockport, Maine, including future refunding obligations, in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $1,500,000 subject to the condition that the Select Board make a finding that sufficient grants, donations and/or donation commitments have been made in order to move forward with the Project?”
Currently, the town has $2.1 million in outstanding debt, and adding this new bond will result in a $3.6 million debt load.
The town is anticipating it will pay an annual interest rate of 3.32 percent for 20 years on the library bond, if it passes.
The Select Board is also asking voters, in Question 3 on the warrant, for permission to borrow up to $300,000 in what has been termed “bridge” funding for associated costs; e.g., design, construction, equipping, if private pledge donations do not fill the coffers as quickly as the project is moving along.
Rockport has been debating the future of its library location, and even whether the town needs its own library, since 2013, when a citizen volunteer committee commissioned and submitted a report recommending a new and larger town library be built on the former Rockport Elementary School land on West Street.
Town citizens remained split on where they wanted to site a new library, as the collection was removed from the existing Rockport Village site to temporary quarters on Route 1. That move was made after another report concluded the existing library building, built in 1949, was in poor condition.
In November 2016, and by just nine votes, Rockport voters defeated a measure to spending $2 million on a new $4 million library ($2 million was to be raised privately). After that vote, the Select Board asked citizens for their opinions on what a library should look like, where it should be built, and for how much.
The Select Board concluded from a survey that the town wanted a scaled-down new library, but remained split on its location. In February 2017, the Select Board voted 4 to 1 to build a new library on the existing library site, and not at the former Rockport Elementary School parcel on West Street, and which the town owns.
After a lengthy process, different architects produced a new design, trimmed project costs to approximately $3.5 million, and after a public hearing, the latest borrowing proposal was placed on the November ballot.
If Rockport voters turn down the $1.5 million bond proposal, the Select Board will have to start a discussion again about the future of the Rockport Public Library.
According to Select Board Chairman Doug Cole: “The Select Board has not entertained any discussions of the question failing or what to do if it does. I hope we don't have to.”