FALMOUTH – Should it stay or should it go?

That’s the question for Falmouth Memorial Library trustees, who between now and June will be charged with making a recommendation to the town for the library’s future home.

Kimberly Millick, who recently took over as president of the trustees, will lead the discussion. At a town council meeting on Monday, Millick expressed ambivalence about a $5 million plan to move the library about half a mile from 5 Lunt Road to the former Plummer-Motz school. The suggestion originated with Sea Coast Management Inc., which is buying the schools and adjoining land to expand the OceanView retirement community.

“Everything that OceanView has done here is very appealing,” said Millick. “However I can’t get past, the board can’t get past, that … there are a lot of citizens who don’t want the library to move.”

OceanView’s $3.25 million land deal, which could close in January, already contains mandatory provisions to convert the Lunt School gymnasium into an auditorium available to the public 40 percent of the time.

The library, however, has proved a quandary. In June 2011, before OceanView’s proposal, voters rejected a proposal to spend $5.65 million, including $1.5 million in town money, to renovate the Plummer-Motz and Lunt schools into a community center and library. The proposal failed by 161 votes.

The referendum results left Millick wondering if there is strong enough support among library patrons to raise the estimated $3 million it would take to complete the OceanView plan at Plummer-Motz, despite the overwhelming need for expansion.

“We can’t even conduct our mission to the fullest without more space,” said Millick. “We’re busting out at the seams.”

Library director Andi Jackson-Darling said she has had to convert a public meeting room into staff offices, and sometimes stores donated books on tables to keep the facility uncluttered. More important than raw square feet is a desire to better accommodate an array of uses unimagined in 1995 when the building was last expanded. “A library is a valued part of the community, and the community is struggling, like the library world is, with how we can continue to offer information and life-long learning opportunities to people,” Jackson-Darling said.

For OceanView, the library would be a boon. Planners envision the facilities as a major draw for future residents of up to 60 units of senior housing expected to be constructed by 2020 on the acres of wooded area connected to the schools.

“We think there is an opportunity here,” said Matthew Teare, director of development at Sea Coast Management. “Senior communities are incredible economic drivers. But if there isn’t going to be a strong partnership we’d like to look at other options.”

The town council has agreed to give library trustees until June to decide how to proceed. That gives Millick and her fellow trustees a chance to review their options, which could include keeping the library at its 1950s-era building on Lunt Road.

That was the premise of one local architect, who took the question into his own hands. Andy Hyland Last week presented an unsolicited sketch to expand the library at its current site. Hyland, a principal at Port City Architects in Portland, said he wanted to dispel the notion that the current property is unfit for expansion. “A lot of people are new on (the library) board and they basically said, ‘No you can’t build here,”‘ Hyland recalled. “I wanted to say, ‘No, that’s not totally true.’ “

Hyland’s design would install a two-story addition with a partially subterranean basement that would add about 7,800 square feet and cost roughly $2 million. The presentation was another reason for Millick to pause.

But to town councilor Karen Farber and others, the delay makes them want to know: Will the library stay, or will it go?

 

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at: 791-6303 or at

mbyrne@mainetoday.com