ROCKPORT — It’s showtime (again) for the future of the Rockport Public Library, a town library with a 32,000-book collection that is currently and temporally housed in a former book publisher’s office space on Route 1. If voters approve a $1.5 million proposal to borrow money then the construction of a new $3.5 million library will begin, with the help of $2 million-plus of private donations.
On Nov. 6, Rockport voters will consider three warrant articles at the polls, along with the state and federal elections and referendum, and a School Administrative District 28 referendum concerning a Mary E. Taylor building bond.
Rockport’s municipal warrant includes two questions pertaining to the library and one question asking voters if they approve an ordinance prohibiting the distribution and use of disposal expanded polystyrene cups, plates, bowls, coolers and food containers and to require the use of food containers made of other material associated with take-out food. Expanded polystyrene is more commonly known as Styrofoam.
The ordinance does not extend to raw meat, chicken and fish containers.
It does not prohibit citizens from using such containers that they already own, and customers will not be in violation if they take their own containers of any type to use in carrying food away from a retail vendor.
If approved, the ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019, and the for the first six months, vendors will receive verbal warnings if they violate it. After six months, there will be written violation notices and vendors will be subject to the financial penalties, such as $250 per violation, “in the aggregate not to exceed $1,500 in a one-year period.”
The question comes before Rockport courtesy of the town’s Conservation Commission, which concluded that the packaging has a harsh environmental impact on a local and global scale, including greenhouse gas emissions, and harm to wildlife.
Question four on the municipal warrant reads:
“Shall an Ordinance entitled ‘Polystyrene take-out find containers’ be enacted?”
See attached PDF for the full warrant.
The Select Board is hoping voters will approve a $1.5 million bond at the November ballot box so that 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.
“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.”
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