New library voted down at Tuftonboro Town Meeting

TUFTONBORO LIBRARIAN LINDALEE LAMBERT, Harlow Sarles, librarian Christie Sarles and Trustee Paul Matlock listen to Moderator Dan Barnard read aloud the vote tally on Article 3, to build and equip a new library. A total of 399 votes were cast; 252 in favor, 147 against. This 63 percent approval was not enough since a two-thirds approval (66.67 percent) is necessary to pass a bonded warrant article at Town Meeting. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
March 20, 2014
TUFTONBORO — The Tuftonboro warrant article vote on March 12 for a new town library fell 15 votes short of the super majority (66.7 percent) needed according to NH Town Meeting law.

The final vote on the library was 252 yes, 147 no. In 2009 the project lost by a shortfall of 20 votes. Some might say that's progress, but there is no alleviation of the severely crowded facility in sight.

Some Tuftonboro residents went to the microphone to express doubt on Saturday, March 12, on whether Article 3, to build and equip a new library on town land behind the library for $2.6 million dollars, was well thought out in the total context of town facility needs.

Others suggested the town-owned Dearborn property across the street could be a location for off site services, such as the computer stations.

Another accused the select board of deceit when it maintained in public debate that the project on the ballot was to be considered separately from the police station. The evidence produced was of public minutes of various meetings mentioning the link between the library project and the potential to use the vacated building to solve the space needs of the police department.

No one questioned the need for more space at the library. The library is operating at 150 percent capacity. Part of the collection is stored off site, and tickets are given out for programs in advance to stay within the legal capacity of the meeting room.

Chairman of the Library Board of Trustees Gordon Hunt noted that despite modifications to reduce cost and use of the same footprint, code changes and rising construction costs brought the price up from that presented in 2009.

He recited the list of reasons for proposing the new building: computers are at maximum use, there is not enough seating for patrons who need to work, there is not room to make the entire collection available, it is not ADA compliant, and parking is restricted.

A new building, said Hunt, would increase property values, benefit seasonal residents as well, and serve as a resource for community activity as well as learning.

Library Trustee Paul Matlock addressed the financial impetus. He said money raised through private gifts and raffles over the years amounting to $190,000 and $335,000 already in capital reserve would bring the amount to be bonded down to less than $2.1 million.

He observed that last year $125,000 was put in capital reserve for the library, a cost of $12.60 in taxes per $100,000 in valuation. The 15-year library bond, at 3.75 percent interest, would cost $21 per $100,000 in valuation, a difference of just $8.40.

The principal is the same each year, but the interest goes down as it is paid, so the yearly cost would go down each year. "Time is not our friend," said Matlock. " The $550,000 we had set aside was swallowed up…It's an attractive, no frills plan."

Hunt answered a question on operating costs with a statement that it presently costs $2.30 per square foot to run the library. The per square foot cost to run the new facility is estimated at $1.78.

Sandy Bushman made an impassioned plea for families. She said she couldn't afford to take her seven-year-old to the Polar Express reading and train ride in North Conway, but she didn't need to. It was free at the Tuftonboro Library and magical. There are animal exhibitions and free summer programs, too. " The Tuftonboro library so reflects the best parts of our community," said Bushman.

Co-director Christie Sarles, a self-proclaimed devotee of the library since 1972, read a heart-0warming anecdotal narrative of just who are "those library people" (as they are sometimes referred to in meetings). Concluding her descriptions and using the language of Pogo, she said, "We have met those library people and they is us."

The voting was open for an hour, during which the meeting proceeded.

Voters readily approved warrants to: raise and appropriate $7,500 for a wage and classification study; establish a capital reserve fund in the amount of $45,000 for the purchase of Self Contained Breathing Appartatus for the fire department; and add $50,000 in capital reserve for a police department facility; raise and appropriate $34,000 to rehabilitate Davis Field (located behind the school) in 2014, with $6,000 to come from the undesignated fund balance and $28,000 to be raised by taxes); and raise and appropriate $185,000 for the paving of town roads.

A gentleman rose to question the latter. He said the amount designated for paving is the same as in the 2009 budget, and asked why it hadn't been increased in consideration of inflation. He added that the woman who complained at Candidate's Night about her road not getting paved should consider that ". . . the man [Road Agent Jim Bean] doesn't have the money to do what he wants to do."

Selectman Lloyd Wood answered that the road agent is following a 10-year plan with a list of roads that has been considered sufficient.

Guy Pike asked to hear from someone on the Budget Committee, which voted 3-5 against Article 9: to raise and appropriate $87,457 to make a second and final payment on the Fire Department's Engine 1. Member Bob McWhirter answered that he didn't think it made sense to give money back to the bank early.

John Simms, former CIP chairman, disagreed. Simms responded that capital expenditures are below the town's capacity this year and that interest could be avoided by paying that debt this year.

Voters continued on to establish a contingency fund of $5,000 to go into the fund from the fund balance, not from taxes; and to raise and appropriate $3,264,740.00 for general town operations.

Amendments to budget line items raised by Mary Ann Murray, who spoke in support of having two lifeguards at the 19 Mile Bay Beach where the summer swim program takes place rather than just one, and Marilyn Tracey, who said she depends on the Blue Loon service for transportation and asked to add $3,500 to that line to compensate for the $1,500 cut to last year's $3,000 contribution. Both amendments failed.

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