Tuftonboro Budget Committee votes down new library again after hearing

February 20, 2014
TUFTONBORO — "Now that you have additional information on the library building proposal, will you reconsider your vote?" Tuftonboro Library Trustee Paul Matlock asked the Budget Committee at Tuesday night's Public Hearing. In response, the committee voted 5-3 against the $2.6 million library proposal on Jan. 14 – the same result as their first vote.

Application of about $500,000 in capital reserve and gifts will be applied to reduce the amount to be raised to approximately $2.1 million.

Matlock noted that members have information on the wetlands issue, which answers the question as to why a new building is proposed rather than an expansion, and also detailed construction costs.

Librarian Christie Sarles added that information was provided from the 1990, 2006 and 2011 proposals. In the course of the hearing, she elaborated, as she has before, that the building footprint is the same, and said that modifications have been made in the use of the space to allow flexibility in the years ahead.

While some people may have assumed that the cost has gone up in the years since the last vote because the building is more substantial, that is not the case. A fact sheet distributed by the library says that construction costs are $569,000 higher than at the time of the 2006 vote and they are not likely to go down.

Speaking to the committee, Jackie Rollins said, "It behooves you to review the additional information and reconsider your vote."

Committee member Bob McWhirter said that he visited the library and found the information helpful, but the big issue for him is that there is talk of the police department moving into the space that would be vacated, and "there are no definitive plans."

Selectman Chairman and representative to the Budget Committee Carolyn Sundquist said the selectmen asked the architect to examine the space and he estimated the cost of renovation for police operations to be around $700,000.

Susan Weeks expressed confusion as to how the police ended up at the end of the list, prompting Sundquist to review the votes of the past few years. The proposal for a combined fire and safety building was rejected by voters, so the next article was for the fire station alone. Since the police department is the logical choice for the space to be vacated by the library, a new library building would have to be addressed first.

Wright complained that there hadn't been "as much public outreach as the fire station" and commented, "It took 12 years to get the fire station."

Committee member Bob Theve asked how he thought the library raised private funds (nearly $200,000) for the building, and said that the fire building committee never had a marketing plan.

"I feel like we have our hands out all the time," interjected Sarles, who added that they have one or two raffles going all the time. At this point, she's afraid people want to run in the other direction for fear that she's going to try to sell them another ticket.

"We had a building committee of around 25 people three to four years ago, and we have an informational meeting scheduled this Saturday. This is not a new project. This is the same plan," she stated emphatically.

Ruth Smith reminded the members that five years ago the proposal received over 60 percent of the vote, short of the necessary 66 percent required at town meeting. "That shows support," she said.

Bud Com member Tyler Philips said people are asking him why it costs more and why there is not an outside committee and claimed there to be "an information vacuum."

"The building committee has put out a lot of information about the project from the beginning," noted Joan Theve, who then questioned why the Budget Committee would say no to the library and no to the police station when "the CIP has mapped that out."

"I'm not happy with the cost," responded Bud Com member Gary Chehames, " I'm concerned about 25 years from now."

Philips reminded those present that when he asked everyone at the Jan. 14 meeting (including those in the audience) how many people thought there was no need for the library, no one raised a hand.

Everyone is in agreement that the need is there, said Phillips, but, "Is it the right plan?"

He stated emphatically that he was for a new library but also said that the library building proposal is likely the most costly piece of infrastructure in the town for the next 100 years. In his opinion, the price tag is too high. The record shows that he voted against it.

Procrastination on building the library is costing the town about half a million dollars, declared Bob Theve. At 23 cents per $1,000 in valuation, the cost (in 2016 and decreasing thereafter) for a homeowner with a $100,000 property would be about $23 a year. A $300,000 valuation would mean approximately $69 on a tax bill, "That comes to about a tank of gas a year!"

"There have been innumerable studies, the library is at 150 percent capacity, the need is there…It is time to do it."

Chairman of the Capital Improvements Committee Bill Marcussen pointed out that while the resident population of Tuftonboro is around 2400, summer people swell the ranks to around 7,000 to 8,500 people.

"I'm disappointed in the Budget Committee," said Marcussen. " Some of the questions (referring to Jan. 14 meeting vote) were from people involved in the process five years ago. They had the information, yet they seemed not to know it." He mentioned the issue of the wetlands precluding expansion as a case in point.

"There are clear unmet needs out there. Pushing off the needs doesn't make the impact any better going forward. It delays the benefit to the town."

Bob McWhirter objected that there "wasn't one stick of financial information" presented to the committee.

"So you couldn't make an informed vote, but you voted anyway?" queried Marcussen.

"Gordon Hunt told us we could take it or leave it," responded McWhirter.

"He didn't say that. He asked for specific requests, and the Budget Committee gave no list," corrected Ruth Smith.

"My need for more information was nil," proclaimed Black. "More studies would be redundant, so let's support it this time around."

Library trustee Mary Ann Murray said that the town has "taken a consistent approach" with the establishment of capital reserve accounts, which voters have supported, yet "The Budget Committee says 'No'. I'm asking for reconsideration… It's pretty foolish to be sitting on that money."

Discussion proceeded on other less controversial warrant articles. Ruth Smith returned to the request for a vote of reconsideration. Wright deferred that to the Budget Committee meeting immediately following the hearing.

A motion to reconsider was made at the following meeting. The vote failed 4-3. No one changed position.

Two library building presentations are on the calendar: on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 1 p.m. at the Tuftonboro Free Library, hosted by the library trustees and on Tuesday, Feb. 25, during Candidate's Night, hosted by the Tuftonboro Association, at 7 p.m. at Tuftonboro Central School.

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