ROCKPORT — Rockport leaders will discuss this evening the possibility of placing a nonbinding referendum before voters in November. Its language: "Do you agree with the recommendation of a special steering committee that a new library should be constructed on a portion of the RES site, provided that the current ballfields be retrained, and pending community input on design and budget?"
The regularly scheduled meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera Meeting Room, and will be televised on public access Channel 22. The agenda also includes establishment of a water quality committee and a discussion that is to happen behind closed doors concerning acquisition of property for economic development.
The Rockport Library Committee recommendation follows on the heels of June 16 subcommittee recommendation that the town consider construction of a new library at the former Rockport Elementary School site on West Street.
In a July 11 letter (see attached PDF) to the Rockport Select Board, Kathleen Meil, who is chairman of the Library Committee, urged the board to place the article on the warrant. She said: “Some suggest that this vote is premature because it doesn’t answer every question we have about the location or the library. However, many of those questions – especially the vitally important ones about financing – cannot be answered without this vote.”
The Library Committee, she wrote, needs an indication from Rockport citizens before it can assess funding sources.
“We cannot accurately assess our ability to fund construction through grants and private donations without an indication that the town supports construction on the RES site,” she wrote. “If voters approve the measure, we will begin fundraising and we are committed to raising the majority of funds. That’s how the library has always funded capital projects; every construction, renovation, and significant improvement in the Library's 100-year history has been funded entirely through private money. Some will try to scare voters with dire predictions of tax hikes, but the reality is that we are not asking voters for any funding at this point and cannot yet predict how much - if any - we might request.
“We cannot develop a realistic architectural design without an indication that voters want to build it. Some may suggest that we'll return to the conceptual design developed through a grant from the Davis Community Foundation, but that's never been our intention. The purpose of that design was to show what might be possible and to draw attention to the library’s future. (A goal we clearly accomplished, and then some.) With town approval of the site, we will start from scratch on building design that incorporates significant public input.”
Debate over the future of Rockport’s library has been heavy and opinionated since last year, when the Library Committee posed the idea of moving the library from its current site near Memorial Park and building a new library on the town-owned RES site. The debate has also engendered hard feelings in a small community.
Both sites are within the village confines, and the proposal has opened many discussions about the boundaries of Rockport Village and the definition of Rockport’s downtown.
The library had received a $15,000 grant from the Davis Family Foundation to explore expansion and then its governing committee held a workshop with the town’s Select Board to discuss the idea of moving.
Citizens agreed that night, and at future meetings, to determine also how it might be possible to enlarge the library on its current site. In November 2013, voters approved a measure that would allow expansion into the shoreland zone (a perennial brook runs along one side of the library) for this specific proposal.
In March, the Library Committee appointed nine residents to a steering committee, which was charged with researching and advising about the options of renovating the existing library or constructing a new one.
The Library Committee consists of citizens who have been elected to it. That committee asked citizens who were interested in the issue to serve on its ad hoc steering committee.
The Steering Committee originally comprised:
Richard Anderson (resigned, replaced by Dave Jackson)
Nell Dailey (resigned, replaced by Ames Curtis)
Bill Leone (resigned, replaced by Staci Coomer)
Jan Rosenbaum (Chairman)
Charlton Ames (Select Board, Ex Officio)
Rick Bates (Town Manager, Ex Officio)
Bill Chapman (Select Board, Ex Officio)
Ann Filley (Acting Library Director, Ex Officio)
Kathleen Meil (Library Committee Chairman, Ex Officio)
By June, the committee sifted through data associated with eight potential sites, using 11 criteria to rank them.
Those sites included:
1. The existing library site
2. Memorial Park, across Limerock Street from the library
3. The combined site (current library property + Memorial Park)
4. RES - the now-vacant Rockport Elementary School site
5. CMCA building
6. Route 1 (available large commercial sites on Rt 1)
7. Camden Hills Regional High School library
8. Rockport Properties site (the vacant building site on Central street abutting the
Shepard Building, adjacent to Mary Lea Park)
“Five fell away, leaving three possible sites,” said Chairman Jan Rosenbaum, in a June 19 conversation.
The committee then finished its 38-page report and delivered it to the Library Committee, suggesting it should consider additional criteria in making its decision.
In other municipal business
Rockport’s selectmen will discuss:
The Water Quality Committee’s proposed homeowner survey
Discussion regarding mission and composition of the Water Quality Committee
Discussion and vote on a Statement of Appreciation to the Library Steering Committee for their efforts
Discussion regarding the adoption of an ordinance permitted by MRSA Title 36, Chapter 908 (A) Section 6271: tax deferral program for certain qualified senior citizens
Vote to approval a tax abatement to Patterson Mobile Home Park for Tax Years 2011 and 2012
Review Reserve Accounts Policy
Approval of the Select Board to put the tax acquired property at Chickawaukie Pond up for sale by sealed bid and for the Town Manager to accept the bid that is most advantageous to the Town of Rockport
Discuss and vote on the details of the proposed November warrant articles regarding Infrastructure Bonds
Approval of the Order of Municipal Officers regarding payment of outstanding or delinquent property taxes
Vote to elect two (2) members to represent District 12 on the Maine Municipal Association’s (MMA) Legislative Policy Committee (LPC)
Appoint a member of the Select Board to a 3-year term on the MidCoast Solid Waste Board of Directors (MCSWC)
Executive Session: Pursuant to 1 M.R.S.A. Section 405 (6) (c) to discuss acquisition of real property or economic development
Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at email@example.com; 207-706-6657