After a four-hour meeting, the Rockport Select Board decided Feb. 28 to keep the town’s library at its home location: 1 Limerock Street, in downtown Rockport, across the street from Memorial Park.
The 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. (View the entire meeting here)
The discussion took place following months, even years, of community debate about the best location to build a new library, several ballot articles spread over three years, and much acrimony among citizens themselves.
Ken McKinley said in voting for 1 Limerock Street, he will pledge to work on parking and accessibility.
Bill Chapman said he endorsed the existing site because it represents a better opportunity to get a library built in a more timely manner.
Owen Casas endorsed 1 Limerock because it will add economic vitality to the Rockport downtown.
Geoff Parker endorsed the existing site, and said he hoped the town will also support it.
Brendan Riordan said he voted against 1 Limerock Street because he believes he had a hand in creating a process by which he failed to follow through on. He said he failed in collecting more complete information than what was gathered.
That information gathering included communicating with the entire Bok family, which originally deeded the existing library parcel at 1 Limerock Street to the town in 1949.
The board had tasked board member Geoff Parker and Town Manager Rick Bates to communicate with the 16 or so Bok heirs to get a sense of whether they would want the land back from the town, if the board decided to move the library to RES.
But Parker and Bates reached but five of the heirs, who live locally, and did not make contact with other heirs.
Citing that lack of information, Riordan said he could not fully make a decision.
“I can’t fully endorse taking a vote at this time,” said Riordan.
At the meeting, several citizens urged the Select Board to move the library to the RES site, citing accessibility for the elderly and for families with young children.
It remains to be seen what the design of the new library or its cost may be. That will be the next order of business before a proposal goes to voters, whether that is June or November.
And as for the offer of a group of citizens to purchase an abutting property to contribute to the project for room to expand, the board agreed that any commitment to such a real estate deal deserved another conversation.
The group has also offered to draft a preliminary pro bono design of the library.
The board agreed to set up a meeting with the group for March 7, 7 p.m., in the Rockport Opera House meeting room. That meeting is open to the public.
On Nov. 8, 2016, Rockport voters defeated a proposal by nine votes to accept a design of a $4 million library at 1 Limerock Street. The funding would have called for a $2 million municipal bond coupled with a $2 million private fundraising effort.
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