Just seven months ago, a planning committee in Falmouth was talking about borrowing $4 million to help pay for a new town center on the campus of the Plummer-Motz/Lunt School at Middle and Lunt roads.

At tonight’s Town Council meeting, residents will see just how much things have changed since that meeting hosted by Falmouth’s Community Facilities Planning Committee.

Councilors have reined in the committee’s plans and are taking a step-by-step approach to figuring out how the town’s space needs should be addressed, how much renovations might cost, and whether the town can afford them.

“We basically said we need to step back and continue this dialogue,” said Tony Payne, the council chairman. “We slowed the process down so that we could get a greater buy-in from the community.”

In 2008, the town formed the committee to research the town’s buildings and space needs.

Committee members looked at reusing the Plummer Motz/Lunt School campus as space for a new municipal center, library and community center. The schools will be closed in June, with students moving to an elementary school that is set to open in September.

The committee presented its plan to the community on April 5, at a meeting attended by about 100 people.

No one spoke against the town center, and when the audience was asked that night to vote using electronic keypads, 68 percent said they liked a town center concept.

But public sentiment has changed, Payne said, and the council remains open to options for addressing space needs.

“The council is trying to build consensus among its members. Right now the process is on multiple tracks,” said Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth’s long-range planning director.

Though the council has been slow to act on recommendations that would create a town center at the school campus site, a petition circulated by citizens on Election Day last week gathered more than 1,100 signatures from people who say they would like the schools to remain in civic use.

“This (petition) was never intended to trigger a referendum. We just wanted to let the council know that there is a large group of people in this town who would like those buildings to remain in civic use,” said Marsha Clark, a citizen who led the petition drive. “We are putting our faith in the council to go in that direction.”

One of the issues facing the town involves accommodating the growth of the town library. One option might be to move the library into the vacant Lunt School.

There is also a need to accommodate town recreation programs. A yoga class, for instance, is now held in the Town Council chambers.

Holtwijk said the council will explore establishing a community center.

If money must be borrowed to renovate buildings, Holtwijk said, the council might schedule a referendum in June.

“The big issue is, what do we do with the Plummer Motz and Lunt school property once they become vacant?” he said.

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

[email protected]