November 2, 2013

Cape Elizabeth's library panel offering cheaper renovation plan

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

One year after Cape Elizabeth voters rejected a $6 million bond to modernize the town’s library – citing as their main reason the cost of the project – another proposal to fix the building has surfaced.

The latest plan would have the town borrow up to $4 million to renovate and expand the Thomas Memorial Library, which is closing in on its 100th year of operation.

Members of the Library Planning Committee will present their plan to the Town Council at the council’s Nov. 6 meeting in Town Hall. Councilors are expected to accept the committee’s recommendations before creating a Building Committee, whose members would be given the next year to formulate a plan for modernizing the 94-year-old library.

“Our hope is to take the borrowing question to the voters in November 2014,” said Katharine Ray, a Town Council member who also served on the Library Planning Committee. “This is just part one.”

The Town Council formed the five-member committee in February, three months after Cape Elizabeth residents voted overwhelmingly – 3,566 to 2,690 – against borrowing $6 million to renovate the library.

Ray said the committee, which used Reed & Co. Architecture as a consultant, spent the last several months developing a plan that involves renovating the existing library as well as building a two-story addition.

In its report, the Library Planning Committee suggests that the project costs be capped at $4 million and that private funds in the amount of $400,000 be raised to furnish the new building.

Thomas Memorial Library has provided generations of Cape Elizabeth residents with access to the world. It was officially dedicated on April 22, 1919. The library building was moved to its current location near the Pond Cove Elementary School on Scott Dyer Road in 1944.

“Now years have passed, hundreds of thousands of patrons have visited, technology has evolved, and this well-used community resource has become worn down, less efficient, dated and difficult to access for many. In this technology-driven age, the Thomas Memorial Library’s functions have become limited by the facility’s structural, mechanical and electrical capacities and configurations,” members of the Library Planning Committee said in their recommendation to the Town Council.

Reed & Co. also released its proposed site plan for the library project this week. The lower level of the two-story addition recommended by the Portland architectural firm would become a children’s area with an enclosed outdoor play space.

The firm recommends creating a pedestrian connection between the library and elementary school that encourages sharing of resources. Reed & Co.’s plan also calls for construction of a new stage for outdoor performances. The amphitheater would be located in front of the Pond Cove School annex.

The existing library would be made handicapped-accessible.

“We heard last year (from voters) that $6 million was too much,” Ray said. “I really hope this (bond) passes. We think it will address needs of the Cape Elizabeth community.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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