A rendering of the proposed Scarborough Public Library. Contributed / Simon Architects

Voters in Scarborough once again have rejected an expansion of the Scarborough Public Library, this year 7,097 to 4,817.

Of Scarborough’s 16,691 registered voters, 12,717, or over 76%, cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, according to the Town Clerk’s Office.

In 2006, a $6.75 million expansion project was rejected by Scarborough voters by a much slimmer margin, 1,488 to 1,235.

Voters this year were asked to authorized the town to borrow up to $12.9 million to triple the size of the library. The cost of the expansion was $13.7 million but, with temporary relocation expenses, the overall price tag of the project was estimated to be $16 million, with any costs in excess of the $12.9 million to be raised via fundraising.

Those who supported the library project cited a great need for space. Now, excess furniture is crammed into offices, the library’s online database is stored in a closet, and books are placed on out-of-reach shelves.

Those opposed believed increasing the size of the library from 13,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet, was excessive both in its footprint and cost. The bond would have required the owner of a home assessed at $400,000 to pay an extra $1,000 in taxes over the life of the bond, $35 per year on average over 30 years, according to Town Manger Tom Hall.


“We are very happy that the town’s voters agreed with us that the proposed library expansion far exceeded the town’s needs,” Susan Hamill, a member of the SMARTaxes group, which campaigned against the expansion, wrote in an email to The Forecaster.

Part of the SMARTaxes group’s argument was that a new school project is on the horizon and is expected to come with a hefty tax increase.

“Especially with a $135 million school project scheduled to be on next year’s ballot, we hope that this vote will convince town leaders to begin a meaningful discussion of all the town’s building plans and their financial impact on taxpayers,” Hamill said. “Had that discussion occurred before the library project went on the ballot, the library might have come forward with a more reasonable and affordable plan that voters could have accepted.”

The 22,000-square-foot, two-story expansion would have added an atrium, dedicated space for young children and teens, staff areas and large meeting rooms, one of which could fit 150 people comfortably.

Library Director Nancy Crowell, when contacted for comment Wednesday, read a statement the library had posted on its Facebook page:  “We thank our community for your expressions of support and votes. The library’s vision for the future is stronger than ever as we consider our next steps. We remain committed to providing you with the best service possible.”

Charter amendments 


Scarborough voters on Tuesday passed seven charter amendments.

Voters approved a future pay increase for town councilors and board of education members by a vote of 7,476 to 4,540, and voted 9,263 to 2,165 to change school board elections now held in June to November.

An amendment increasing the threshold for a monetary item to require a referendum was approved 8,101 to 2,998. Now, only projects or items costing more than $600,000 will require voter approval, rather than $400,000.

Voters decided 9,263 to 2,165 that any elected or appointed official who suspects a fellow board or committee member of having a conflict of interest has the right to ask that individual to address the potential conflict of interest.

Also approved were amendments extending the deadline for the town’s annual audit to be delivered to the council, 9,564 to 2,154; authorizing the Town Council to fill vacancies on the board of education via a special election, 9,520 to 2,119; and requiring the town to provide an itemized list of all capital assets over $100,000, with an estimated replacement schedule for each, 8,903 to 2,446.

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