CAPE ELIZABETH — A day before voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary election, councilors began setting the November general election ballot by approving a bond question for renovation of Thomas Memorial Library.

The unanimous vote by councilors Monday creates a referendum asking for up to $6 million to renovate and reconstruct the library, a project now estimated to cost about $7.5 million.

An amortization schedule provided by Town Manager Michael McGovern shows a 20-year bond term of $6 million with a 4.5 percent interest rate would cost taxpayers $8.83 million in principal and interest.

Councilors also removed the words “cultural center” from the original motion while they grapple with the size and scope of the work.

“We arrived at sort of a moving number,” Councilor James Walsh said about the continuing discussions about what exactly to do at the library on Scott Dyer Road.

Councilor Frank Governali said he supports library improvements, but said less expensive alternatives should be explored.

“I always thought the library project was central to the town. Even though we have trimmed $1 million off a project which  had been planned for many many years, it is still a lot of money,” Governali said. “I have not embraced the notion we should have a cultural center attached to the library.”

He said a cultural program should be created and sustained before space is dedicated in the library, and there are other meeting spaces already available in town for programs and gatherings.

“The current plan is overkill in a town like ours,” Governali concluded.

Councilor David Sherman and Chairwoman Sara Lennon agreed the cultural center idea seemed redundant and possibly misunderstood in a way that could lead residents to reject the bond proposal.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan continued to support building meeting space into the library, because other public venues in town may not be open all year or have the ambiance the improved library could provide.

The project to rebuild the World War II-era structure calls for razing four of the five buildings comprising the library. It carried an estimated cost of $8.5 million until it was decided the Cape Elizabeth Historical Society could occupy space in the police station, where dispatchers previously worked.

Shifting the historical society space could save at least $400,000, Town Manager Michael McGovern said at a June 4 council workshop.

Councilors also agreed to set a July 9 public hearing on a potential Town Charter change requiring capital expenditures or improvement projects costing $1 million to go to referendum votes.

Sherman suggested looking into how many times the council has voted on such spending items, because he could not recall doing so in the four years he has been on the council.

In the spring, councilors had decided against putting the library bond on the ballot, then changed their minds in May.

Councilors Monday also voted 6-1, with Sullivan opposed, to approve a public works employees contract extending from July 1 through June 30, 2014.

The contract calls for an initial 3 percent increase for 14 full-time and one part-time public works employees who are members of Teamsters Local 340. The employees will receive a second increase July 1, 2013, based on the Consumer Price Index, but not to exceed 3 percent.

The contract also calls for union members to receive compensatory time off in the event Town Hall is closed for more than four hours due to a winter storm.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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