TOWN MEETING--WILL IT LAST ALL SUMMER? Town Meeting tackled TWO articles in three hours Wednesday night, May 11. They tabled a third until next Monday night. At this pace, we should all cancel our summer vacations and plan on attending a few months more meetings.
But, history was made when Town Meeting, after a lengthy debate, approved a request by the Stoughton Public Library Planning and Building Committee to borrow 14 million dollars (with 7 million required to be covered by grants) to almost double the size of , while making it handicapped accessible and more energy efficient.
The Committee, represented by Chairman of the Library's Board of Trustees Harvey Levensohn, informed town meeting members that if the article wasn't approved, over three million dollars would need to be spent in capital outlays, anyway, to make the elevator ADA compliant, replace the HVAC system, replace the roof, fix the five automatic doors, the windows, lights, ceilings and floor tiles (which have asbestos), a sprinkler and fire alarm system, and replace a worn circulation desk and assorted furniture.
Town Meeting member John Roch thought "it was needed, but it seems like a very high price tag." SPLPBC member Joe Palermo, who is also on the Library's Board of Trustees, said, "We had a cost evaluation expert look at it. It's in line with current pricing."
Town Meeting member John Morton thought it was an easy decision: "You're really spending just an additional four million dollars to double the size of the building, and make it much more efficient," citing the three million dollars in needed repairs and the seven million dollars required in grant funding.
Southeastern Regional School Committee and Town Meeting member Roberta Harback said, "It makes good business sense to get a dollar back for every dollar you spend. And, it will also save money on utilities because of the improved energy efficiency."
The Stoughton Public Library was built in 1969 at a cost of $625,960 dollars. For those of you who haven't stepped into the place, it has two floors, a wide-open layout, and is 22,200 square feet. The plans, by CBT of Boston, would make the library 39,000 square feet, and most importantly, open it up to handicapped patrons. The current freight elevator in the library is not designed to fit wheelchairs.
Town Meeting member Bob Cohn had a different reason to support the project, adding, "After driving through Stoughton Center, this beautiful building would make you feel good."
Selectman Chairman John Stagnone suggested paying for this project with a debt exclusion override, rather than off the tax levy. That would mean that the voters would have had their chance to weigh in on paying for it. Stagnone also pointed out the difficult traffic situation at the corner of Walnut and Park Street, would become worse, as would the visibility there.
In addition, Town Treasurer Tom Rorrie noted that the first year PRINCIPAL on the loan would be $609,000, and after that would run $350,000 a year, over 20 years. Add to that interest payments of 3.6 million dollars over that 20 years, and you can see that it might strain an already overburdened budget.
But, Town Meeting members watched an effective presentation, highlighting the amazing programs that Library Director Pat Basler and her staff have offered to those of all ages. And, town meeting members recognized the growing space needs of the library for events, computer access, tutoring, and special programs.
Forgetting about the financial problems that could hit the town as a direct result result of these costs, town meeting members agreed to accept the preliminary design plan by a 105-10 vote. Then, they voted on spending seven million dollars--also overwhelmingly--101-22.
A discussion of the acceptance of the residential subdivisions known as Ledgebrook Estates 1 & 2, consisting of Ledgebrook Avenue, Carson Drive, Freely Drive, and Sander Lane, was tabled until Monday, May 16. Also scheduled that night is a , to put $924,593 into the town's Stabilization Fund, a prudent move that will help the town's bond rating, and create a larger "rainy day fund."
The motion is expected to pass this time around, after winning a majority vote on Monday, 76-51, but failing to get the required 2/3 vote. With Selectman Chairman John Stagnone, Finance Committee Chair Holly Boykin, and School Committee Chair Tom Colburn signing a joint recommendation, I wouldn't be surprised to see an overwhelming vote--possibly near unanimous--in favor.
Town Meeting continues Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Stoughton High School Auditorium. Some of the upcoming articles talk about bringing tattoo parlors to downtown, bringing tasers to the Stoughton Police, and allowing a third drive-thru in the Turnpike Street Crossing, which currently features South Shore Savings Bank and Dunkin' Donuts. Owner of the property is Roger Sherman of Sherbros Management Company in Chelsea. He is represented by Attorney Barry Crimmins, who is also Chairman of the Stoughton Redevelopment Authority.
Sherman told About Town he has spoken with reps from pharmacies and Panera bread about the location, but they all required a drive through to be built for consideration. He's not looking to put a fast food place in the location, he told me.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I have a white copy of the purple paper,"--Town Moderator Howard Hansen.
Check back later today for the Afternoon Edition of About Town with Mark Snyder.