June 17, 2013

Stephen King's scary library needs $9M repair

By Esmé E. Deprez / Bloomberg News

Readers of Stephen King's novel "It" know the Bangor Public Library as a hiding spot for the title character, a deranged clown on a murderous rampage. In real life, the library is falling apart.

Voters in Bangor will decide Tuesday whether to back a $3 million tax-exempt bond to help repair the library's 101-year-old copper roof. A "yes" vote would help unlock a matching gift from Bangor's most famous couple, Stephen and Tabitha King.

"The library is the heart of the community," Barbara McDade, the library's director, said by telephone. "People in Bangor check out 14 books a year on average, and 816 people use the library every day. I have not heard any opposition to the plans. I am hopeful it will pass."

The vote is the first of its kind in Bangor after residents last year required referendums for any borrowing that exceeds $1 million. If approved, the general-obligation bonds would be supported by a property tax increase of as much as $12 per year for the typical $150,000 home, said Treasurer Deborah Cyr.

King, 65, was living in Bangor and teaching English at a public school nearby when Doubleday & Co. bought his novel "Carrie." The 1974 high-school horror tale was a hit and jump-started his career. He developed a global cult following of frightened readers with titles including "The Shining," "Cujo" and "Misery." Bangor serves as the inspiration for the fictionalized town of Derry that is the setting for many of his books.

Topped with an oxidized copper dome, the three-floor, 60,000-square-foot library has been a staple of Bangor's skyline since 1913. Storms have sent rainwater streaming down walls and onto bookshelves, exposing the need for renovations, said McDade, who's heading the campaign urging a "yes" vote.

The total cost of the renovation is $9 million, which would be split evenly among the bond issue, the Kings' donation and the library's own fundraising, she said. In addition to roof repair, the interior will be modernized and more meeting spaces added.

The Kings, who are both authors, met in the library at the University of Maine in Orono, just a few minutes up the road from the Victorian mansion they now own, according to his website. Both are avid users of the Bangor library, and Tabitha King served on its board for 12 years, McDade said. First editions of all of Stephen King's titles are stored in the vault.

Bangor, on the Penobscot River, bustled with sawmills and shipyards as one of the East Coast's busiest ports in the 1800s, and is now the state's third-most-populous city. It has an annual budget of $119 million and $138 million in outstanding debt, including for its airport and wastewater treatment plant, which are self-sustaining and use no taxpayer money, Cyr said.

The city sold $53.8 million of tax-exempt general-obligation bonds in July to finance construction of a convention center and arena.

Securities maturing in July 2042 priced to yield 3.39 percent, or 0.54 percentage point above benchmark debt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They were valued last week at a yield spread of 0.76 percentage point, BVAL pricing analysis shows.

The bonds have an Aa2 rating from Moody's Investors Service, the third-highest level.

 

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