NEW GLOUCESTER — Residents approved the $102,033 library budget Tuesday after two previous votes on it forced the library to close and the town to lay off the library director and assistant librarian.

The budget passed 519-57 with 103 more voters casting ballots in this month’s election than the second election in September. Registrar of voters Kimberly Getchell said Tuesday afternoon that there were about 150 absentee ballot requests.

Election clerk Linda Shute waits for voters to arrive at the New Gloucester Community Building at 381 Intervale Road Tuesday. Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

The main point of contention with the two earlier iterations of the budget were the cuts to the library director and assistant librarian’s hours. Supporters of the library urged residents to reject the budget in protest against the cuts.

The approved budget, a $4,000 decrease from last year, funds both positions at 36 hours each with benefits, four hours less for both positions than last year.

When voters first weighed in on the matter in July, the $87,860 budget was defeated 657-563. It was again defeated in the second election in September. That $96,026 proposal was rejected 301-173.

Without an approved budget, the town was forced to close the library and lay off its two employees, Library Director Suzan Hawkins and Assistant Librarian Carla McAllister, Town Manager Brenda Fox-Howard said in September.

Fox-Howard said earlier this week that the rehiring process will likely take four to six weeks, which includes advertising the positions and conducting interviews.

“I know the town wants it back and I want the town to have it back,” she said.

Hawkins in a letter posted to community blog NGXchange Thursday morning, said that she would not be re-applying to return as head librarian.

“I have loved being your librarian and having you as part of my library family. But the time has come to move on,” Hawkins wrote.

Hawkins has worked at the library for 38 years and McAllister for 12 years. McAllister declined to comment when asked if she would be interested in applying for her former position.

McAllister declined to comment when asked if she would be interested in applying for her former position.

Leaving the polls at the Community Building on Intervale Road on Tuesday, Rick and Sarah McCann said they believed that library supporters’ campaign to reject the budget again in September was a “misunderstanding” over the fact that voting “no” in protest of the budget cuts would actually shut down the library indefinitely.

Without voter approval of the budget, the town is not authorized to keep the library operational, Fox-Howard said in September, regardless of why people voted against it.

But “it did force the issue” of both librarian’s hours, Sarah McCann said, referring to the approved budget that reinstates both positions at full-time, something which supporters had been fighting for since the beginning.

“There was a lot of us attending a lot of boring Zoom meetings,” to get the issue resolved, McCann said.

McCann, a teacher at Burchard Dunn School and said that some of her students who used the library’s free WiFi for remote learning were forced to go elsewhere, including a McDonald’s parking lot.

Jessica Farwell said that the pandemic may have kept in-person services at the library limited but the community “needs the resources.”

“It’s been frustrating,” she said. “It seems like they came up with the money but where was it two months ago?”

In a normal year, the library would host the annual open house with the Historical Society, the “PJ Holiday Storytime” and other events around the holidays, said McAllister.

When the library reopens, it may be for curbside pick-up only due to the coronavirus.

Comments are not available on this story.