The Scarborough Library board of trustees is seeking to put a $6.5 million addition and renovation on the June ballot.

The project would more than double the size of the existing library, adding 13,800 square feet to it. The Town Council is reviewing the project and will meet with the board of trustees Wednesday, after the Current’s deadline, to discuss the proposal. Councilors and trustees will talk about how much the project will cost and how to pay for it.

The library had proposed a $5 million renovation project last year, but withdrew the plan in September to allow more time for planning. Since then, construction costs have risen by about $20 per square foot, driving the total cost of the project up, according to Councilor Patrick O’Reilly, who is the council liaison to the library.

The board of trustees has also added 800 square feet to the plan. The cost of the project also now includes furniture and equipment.

The increased price tag has caused concern amongst some town councilors. Councilor Shawn Babine noted that the cost of the library has steadily increased since last year when it was first proposed at $1.5 million. It then increased to $2.9 million and later to $4.5 million.

“I question what’s next,” he said. “I’m extremely hesitant in moving this forward.”

Councilor Jeff Messer also was concerned about the escalating price tag and questioned whether it would be wiser to have a new library built near Memorial Park. Still, if the library wants to move forward with the request, Messer said he would send it to voters.

Library officials are now in the process of further detailing their plan and expect to arrive at a final cost estimate shortly. But, for the most part, the library is ready to move forward, which is why trustees would like to see it placed on the June ballot.

The plan now calls for an extensive renovation to the existing 12,000-square-foot building, which was built about 17 years ago. Today it is busier and has a larger collection, and added space is necessary, according to Library Director Nancy Crowell.

“If you were to look at the library stacks, you would find every top and bottom shelf is being used,” Crowell said. “We would like to redesign the stack area to make it more user friendly for children and adults as well.”

The additional space will allow the library to expand its community meeting room. The room sits about 50 people comfortably, Crowell said, and often times community groups are turned away because attendance would exceed its capacity.

“For a community our size, we should have a much larger meeting room,” she said.

Plans call for a meeting room that would seat about 140 people. In addition, there would be smaller meeting rooms that would be useful for tutors meeting with students and other types of small group activities that require a level of privacy.

“Having some room for that kind of gathering is very, very important,” Crowell said.

The project also will include a larger children’s area, computer labs and other enhancements that would allow programming to better serve Scarborough’s growing population.

“We’re looking at trying to better those functions we do today,” said Tom Manderson, treasurer of the board of trustees.

In addition, the new space is proposed to include an office for the Scarborough Economic Development Corp., which is now located in office space in Oak Hill. Library officials feel the partnership will be a nice fit since SEDCO also serves as a source for information. Finally, there is a possibility that the new building will be a green building, although that option would drive-up the costs, Manderson said.

The library is planning on undertaking its own private capital campaign to cover some of the costs. But library trustees don’t yet know how much money they’ll need to raise.

“We’re going to do our best to raise at least $1.5 million privately,” said O’Reilly.

Additionally, the library may be able to apply for a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “They try to help non-profit organizations build facilities like this,” Manderson said.

But, even if the loan were approved, the town would still have to provide some type of financing for the loan.

There also is a question about whether or not the library will remain open during the construction or will be moved to a different location until the project is completed. This would allow the project to finish quicker, but would also cost more.


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