Council narrowly supports nearly $5.7M project

FALMOUTH — After nearly a year of discussion and debate, the Town Council on Monday night unanimously approved language for a June ballot question on a $5.65 million town center project.

But councilors were divided on whether they support the project.

The project would move Falmouth Memorial Library to the Lunt School building, create a community center in the Motz building and lease out the Plummer building.

There would be no impact to the property tax rate.

If the referendum is approved, the cost of the project will be offset by the sale of the existing library on Lunt Road, land behind the school buildings and the Pleasant Hill Fire Station; $1.5 million from the town’s undesignated fund balance, and fundraising by the Library Board of Trustees.

“I’m delighted to see this go to voters,” Council Chairman Tony Payne said. “I wasn’t originally, but I am now. The overwhelming majority who have contacted me have said, whether for or against, that they want an opportunity to weigh in.”

The council chambers were standing room only Monday night and several residents took the podium, primarily to express their support for the project, although a few cited concerns.

“I think the vision is wonderful, but this is a really bad time in the economy to do this,” Jan Andrews said.

Another resident questioned the wisdom of basing the project on the estimated sale prices of various town buildings.

But a majority of the 14 speakers were in favor of the project.

Beth Stouder, who lives across the street from the Lunt School building, said she is strongly in favor of creating a town center at the schools.

“We’re thrilled about the idea of having this across the street from us,” she said.

Chris Orestis said the town’s track record in managing projects was reason enough to trust that this project will be successful.

“Falmouth is one of the best run and fiscally sound communities in all the state of Maine,” Orestis said. “We have a great team in place to make this successful.”

The council also voted, 4-3, to state on the ballot that “The Council recommends that Question 1 be approved.”

While councilors initially questioned whether including this language is required, Town Manager Nathan Poore said two attorneys confirmed that a council recommendation on the question is required by state law.

Payne and Councilors Faith Varney and Fred Chase opposed adding the language and said they will not vote for the project. Councilors Cathy Breen, Bonny Rodden, Teresa Pierce and Will Armitage voted in favor.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emilyparkhurst.

filed under: