CAPE ELIZABETH — The Library Planning Committee cleared another hurdle Monday when the Town Council unanimously approved $20,000 to hire an architect.

Portland-based Reed & Co. Architecture was awarded a $15,000 contract to develop preliminary concept plans and budgets for a range of options to either replace or renovate Thomas Memorial Library, said Molly MacAuslan, chairwoman of the Library Planning Committee. 

The architecture company may be asked to furnish conceptual drawings for an additional $5,000.

Reed & Co. was chosen over three other candidates to perform the work, which includes reviewing previous reports on the condition of the aging facility on Scott Dyer Road.

The firm, which has worked on 20 Maine libraries in the past 30 years, will also review notes from a recent round-table discussion, work with community groups to see what is needed, and research standards from the American Library Association and Maine Library Association, MacAuslan said.

Less than a year ago, Cape Elizabeth voters soundly defeated a $6 million bond proposal that would have funded a new library building. In the wake of the 3,566-2,696 vote, the Town Council formed the Library Planning Committee and charged it with developing a new plan, based on the public’s feedback.

MacAuslan, who is also seeking election to the Town Council, said the committee is approaching the project with sensitivity to that election.

“I think we’re being somewhat more cautious and more conservative about how we approach the project,” she said. “I’ll just give you my own two cents: I want the right solution. I don’t want an overpriced and over-sized solution, nor do I want a shortsighted solution that leaves us with a renovated building or a new building that is either cheaply built or undersized and puts us back in the same spot 10 years or 20 years from now.”

In late August, the committee held a round-table discussion on the subject at the high school. More than 60 people participated.

Councilor Frank Governali, who serves on the library committee, said an online survey would soon be available “in our continuing effort to solicit feedback and insights and points of view from the community.” The committee will also email the survey to as many people as possible and provide paper versions of the survey at locations throughout town. 

Governali acknowledged that the survey would not be scientific, but it would complement the round-table discussion.

In a separate report, Town Manager Michael McGovern noted that 500 people participated in summer reading program at the library. The library was also recently added to a list of Family Place Libraries – a network of more than 300 children’s librarians nationwide that promote early literacy.

The aging library is comprised of five separate buildings that have been cobbled together. The oldest wing dates to 1849. A 2009 study identified more than 100 deficiencies, including water damage, structural inadequacy and antiquated electrical wiring.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

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