Children flock to the Scarborough Public Library after school on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

SCARBOROUGH — Library officials will be heading back to the drawing board after last week’s defeat of a $16 million expansion plan at a time when other more costly public building projects are on the horizon.

Supporters and opponents agree that a third attempt to renovate the crowded and outdated Scarborough Public Library must be coordinated with the future construction of an estimated $135 million consolidated elementary school and $40 million recreation center.

“We hope town officials do a post-mortem on the library proposal,” said Sue Hamill, a leader of a local taxpayers’ group that campaigned against the bond issue. “We want to know where this project went wrong because with the school project coming right up, we don’t want that to go wrong.”

Hamill also believes the Town Council, which includes her husband, Don, should make long-term capital planning a more comprehensive part of future municipal and school budget talks.

The taxpayer group posted this statement on a public Facebook page dedicated to Concerned Taxpayers of Scarborough: “We hope the results of Tuesday’s referendum will encourage town leaders to begin a meaningful public discussion of all the town’s potential building projects, including a new elementary school and a pool/community center, as well as a library expansion. The timing, costs and affordability of all these projects need to be considered in total to arrive at a reasonable plan for the town’s future.”

Library Director Nancy Crowell said the library board of trustees anticipates a thorough review of the expansion proposal in light of other capital needs in town.


“We’re listening to the community,” Crowell said. “A huge amount of work went into the expansion plan and we still face all of the same challenges. We have to be part of a process. We’ll be there at the table.”

Voters rejected a $6.75 million expansion plan in 2006 – 17 years after the library was built in 1989.

The latest proposal failed last Tuesday with 60% of voters – 7,097 to 4,817 – opposed to a borrowing plan that would have nearly tripled the size of the library off Gorham Road, from 12,884 to 35,060 square feet.

The trustees already had raised more than $550,000 toward the $3 million in private donations needed to complete and furnish an expanded library.

If $13 million were borrowed over 30 years, it would have cost the owner of a $400,000 home an additional $1,000 in property taxes over that period, or $33 per year, town officials said.

The two-story addition would have included an atrium entryway, dedicated areas for children and teens, more accessible shelved collections, reading nooks, activity areas, meeting rooms, a gallery and a computer lab.


The results of the referendum are especially telling because more than 76% of registered town voters cast ballots in last week’s election. Emily Delmonaco was among them.

“I voted for the library bond and I think it needs to be expanded, but I think it was too ambitious,” Delmonaco said as she headed into the library Monday. “I think we have to be very wise with how we spend our dollars these days.”

Delmonaco said she liked the public meeting space that was included in the library proposal. However, with public meeting space likely to be part of a new school and a new recreation center, that’s exactly what might be scrutinized as town officials consider community needs across three public construction projects.

Crowell acknowledged that library supporters had some difficulty promoting the expansion when traditional measures of library use, such as book circulation, no longer capture the full range of library activity. She said supporters aimed to “take the high road” when opponents disputed information presented by reputable consultants and professional staff members on the amount of space and services needed in a new library.

“We’re proud of the effort we made and we’ll have a lot more information to share,” she said.

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