CAPE ELIZABETH — Voters rejected a $6 million library renovation bond on Tuesday, while overwhelmingly supporting a Town Charter amendment that requires large single capital expenditures to be approved by referendums.

The library bond failed in a 2,696 to 3,566 vote; the charter change was approved 4,157 to 1,372.

In addition to the bond, the town would have needed to raise about $1.5 million privately to fully fund the library project, putting the total estimated project cost at about $7.5 million.

The bond was proposed to build a new library to replace the Thomas Memorial Library building, which is beset by mold, lack of space, code violations and limits on handicapped access.

Director Jay Scherma said the library will now have to go back to the town to discuss renovations, although he was unsure how it will address some of the immediate problems.

“I had hoped we made our case, but obviously something has to be done; the problems will not go away and they are very real,” he said. “The next step will be up to the Town Council and the citizens.”

Scherma said library projects are always difficult to pass, pointing to recent failed initiatives for libraries in Falmouth and Scarborough.

The charter change, which was spurred by a Town Council discussion about approving the library bond without a public vote, requires any single capital expenditure that exceeds $1 million to automatically trigger a public referendum.

Funding packages that exceed $1 million, but are made up of multiple projects that individually total less than $1 million, will not be subject to referendums under the amendment.

Under the existing charter, the council could approve spending for any project, no matter the size, and residents had to petition the council for a referendum to appeal the spending.

The change does not apply to state and federally mandated projects, or any improvements required due to fire or other catastrophes.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.

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