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Selectmen discuss next steps in solving Tuftonboro library space needs

March 27, 2014
TUFTONBORO — Naturally, discussion at the March 24 selectman's first meeting following the failure of the library building project to gain the two-thirds vote needed for a bonded warrant article turned to what to do next about resolving the crowded conditions at the Tuftonboro Free Library.

No one in all the meetings prior to the vote – Budget Committee, candidate's night or Town Meeting itself – disagreed with the premise that the need is there. The voting populace agreed with the proposal to build a new library by a 63 percent majority, but for others, either the process by which the plan was developed and its cost was the sticking point or a lack of information on how the police department's needs would be met in the future.

Selectman Carolyn Sundquist began the meeting with a question to Fire Chief Adam Thompson about whether the Dearborn house on the town-owned property across the street from the library had asbestos to deal with. Her question was related to suggestions at Town Meeting that the property might serve as a location either in whole or in part for the new library building.

She said that Skip Hurt, who shared such an idea at Town Meeting, visited her recently during her regular Friday morning hours at Town Hall to give his thoughts for a building in that location. Saying that the sooner the board gets going on the process of collecting ideas the better, Sundquist said that either using the Dearborn house for a Fire department burn exercise or demolishing it would solve the problem of having a building almost ready to fall in on itself and also clear the lot for other eventualities.

Thompson replied that if the building were to be burned, any asbestos that may be present would have to be removed first. He also would have to consider the traffic hazard caused by smoke, which would necessitate police assistance. On Sundquist's request, he said he would look into it and report back to the board with his findings.

He shared some thoughts on the library plan based on his experience with the new fire safety building, noting that someone at Town Meeting had expressed the opinion that parking for 45 cars was superfluous, but the reality of winter snow accumulation can eliminate some of the available parking. The fire station has plenty of parking, said Thompson, but despite their best efforts at pushing back snow, eight spots are temporarily blocked.

Use of the fire department's classroom has come up in public discussions of expanding library meeting space. Thompson offered the opinion that the more meeting space the better, for though the department's space is available for public use, fire department needs have precedence. Also, when a group uses the space, a member of the department has to be paid to be on site to assure that no one wanders into the apparatus bays.

When the building was reduced in size to lower costs, there was no longer a way to close off that access.

"It's amazing how fast the space can fill up," commented the chief.

Selectman Lloyd Wood suggested that a meeting of department heads and chairmen of committees be held soon to discuss future building options. "How many years have we put off the police department?" he asked. He added that he was concerned that someone had said at Town Meeting that the selectmen were deceitful, a reference to discussion about the possibility that the department would be housed in the vacated library, in the event the library project passed.

Thompson agreed that the link with the police department needs to be explored. Sundquist was also in agreement, commenting, " We need to have a serious conversation about the police [needs]."

"We need to look at all the options to see what we're working with," added Thompson. He wondered if the land on the projected site for a new building behind the present library has been tested for ledge.

"People want to know what to do with the building if the library moves out," commented resident and television camera man Joe Kowalski.

Wood also brought a recent article on the Federal Reserve's anticipated increase in interest rates from the Boston Herald to the board's attention. He said he thought it was noteworthy to consider in terms of Tuftonboro's future capital project efforts and commented that Inflation can erode the value of the capital reserve funds.

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