ROCKPORT — On July 24, Rockport Select Board members plan to meet with the Library Committee, and then later the same evening, talk with a representative with the Portland Research Group about composing a survey of residents in order to understand better just what they think about building a new library.
The Select Board voted June 1 to accept the one proposal received by the town earlier in the spring to create the survey. The three Select Board members present that evening — Geoffrey Parker, Owen Casas and Ken McKinley — voted unanimously to spent $9,850, plus or minus 10 percent, on the survey.
Bruce Lockwood, of the Portland Research Group, had replied to Rockport’s request for proposals, which had been circulated via municipal invitation and advertising with the Augusta-based nonprofit Maine Municipal Association.
The decision to ask Rockport residents their opinion about building a new library, its design and for how much, was made following a long circuitous board process. Last winter, after the Select Board assumed leadership of the new library project, there was a brief discussion about polling Rockport citizens to help determine why a $2 million proposal for a $4 million new library failed at the Nov. 8, 2016 polls by just nine votes.
But, the board decided against conducting a survey, only to reconsider it later in the spring. In May, the Select Board directed Town Manager Rick Bates to frame the survey parameters, and in the RFP, the town said it wanted “to understand exactly what details the majority of Rockport residents would agree to for a new proposal to resolve the current issues with the Rockport Public Library.”
The RFP stated the research would, “include, but not necessarily be limited to understanding the opinions of the majority of Rockport residents regarding:
“Basic support for constructing a new library building or not constructing a new facility;
“Preferred library size and degree of preference for several options;
“Library building project budget tolerances including preferred mix of private and public investment;
“Library design preferences and gauging importance of design;
“Voting status in November 2016 election; and
“Whether residents voted on the library proposal
”Whether voters supported or did not support the library proposal
”Reasons for voting in favor or in opposition of the library proposal or for not voting on it at all
The survey is also to allow for “comparisons between demographic and geographic segments: age, income, education, marital or partner status, presence of children in household, location of primary residence in town, length of time during typical year Rockport is primary residence, and tenure living in town.”
There are, according to the town office, 2,700 households and 2,800 registered voters in Rockport. Responses from as many adults, 18 years of age or older will be collected.
The Portland Research Group is to collect its information via snail mail and online survey, with residents completing one or the other.
To encourage response, Rockport stock will be used for the cover letter and No.10 outer envelope.
According to the RFP, 2,700 survey packets will be mailed.
If a 25 percent response rate is achieved, 675 completed surveys will be returned.
“At the 95 percent level of confidence, a random sample of n=675 generates a maximum sampling error or confidence interval of +/- 3.77 percentage points,” wrote the Portland Research Group, in its RFP response. “That is, for a reported 50 percent where variability is at its greatest, one can be 95 percent sure the results for the entire population would fall between 46.23 percent and 53.77 percent. The confidence interval tightens as the sample size increases and broadens as the sample size decreases. The larger number of observations will allow for greater flexibility to conduct meaningful analyses between subgroups.”
At the June 26 Rockport Select Board meeting, the members talked briefly about the survey, with new members Doug Cole and Mark Kelley questioning the purpose.
“Hopefully, we will have a clearer picture so we can move forward,” said board member Owen Casas.
“Where do we want to be in a year,” asked Kelley.
Board Chairman Ken McKinley said he hoped that the Select Board and Library Committee would have a good proposal that would be supported by all to put before voters at June 2018 Town Meeting.
"We've got to find the path to move forward," said McKinley.
"Perhaps we'll learn something new, but I'm rather dubious," said Cole.
The board then scheduled to meet with Portland Research Group July 24, as well as the Library Committee.
At the June 26 meeting, former Rockport Public Library Director and Rockport resident Ann Filley reminded the Select Board that the annual book sale, hosted by the nonprofit Friends of the Rockport Library, will be held July 13, 14, and 15, with more than 30,000 books, etc., for sale, at Midcoast Rec Center on Route 90.
In 2016, $16,000 was raised, with $8,000 donated to the new library building fund.
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