MECHANIC FALLS — The Mechanic Falls Library Trustees voted this week to pull out of the downtown Elm Street location, the old brick building where it has been located since 1938, and move into a larger space in the Municipal Building on Lewiston Street.
Nancy Petersons, chairwoman of the library's Board of Trustees, noted the vote was unanimous.
“We're all hoping the change will be a good change,” Petersons said. “The present location is a house adapted to be a library. It has its drawbacks.”
Town Manager John Hawley has been working with trustees since October on a solution to problems posed by the aging building.
“Our insurance company has not been overly impressed with our public library and its lack of a fire alarm/suppression system, lack of handicapped-accessibility, and the undetermined weight load limits of the upper floor, and the condition of the third floor and stairways,” Hawley said.
Estimates to renovate the building range from $200,000 to $500,000.
The library's new location will be on the third floor of the Municipal Building, in a space currently occupied by Regional School Unit 16's Adult Education program.
“Next week we're meeting with Susanne Strout, (of) the Maine School and Library Network, to help us design and plan the use of our new space,” Petersons said.
Petersons said trustees were really looking forward to what can be created in their expanded space. The library will have about 50 percent more usable area.
“People will be able to park their cars, step into the building, onto the elevator, and there they are walking into the front entryway, which could make just a great reading room,” Petersons said.
Petersons figured that the remodeling shouldn't require major modifications, and that the library could be up and running by fall.
Hawley said that on Thursday he gave the Adult Education program formal notice, per the current lease agreement between the town and the RSU, to vacate the building at the end of the current school year.
Hawley also offered the building formerly occupied by Androscoggin Head Start, located on the municipal complex property and vacant since June of 2010, to become the new home for the Adult Education program.
“Under the conditions of the new lease, the town will rent the building to RSU 16 for $1 a month and is offering a 20-year lease. All expenses to operate the building, including utilities, insurance and maintenance, will become the responsibility of the RSU. The town will provide plowing and sanding of the parking area,” Hawley said.
School Superintendent Dennis Duquette said the offer will be presented to the RSU board at the district's regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 7.
While Duquette declined to speculate on what action the School Committee might take, committee Chairman Dave Griffiths called the proposal “a great solution” to a number of problems.
Adult Education Director Nancy Watson had earlier noted that student evaluations of the program have consistently raised the space issue, something that moving from the third floor's 1,700-square-foot space to the 2,552-square-foot former Head Start building would cure.
“This is really a win-win situation all around. Adult Education gets a larger space at a lower cost, the library moves to a larger space that is in much better condition, and the town goes from maintaining three buildings to one,” Hawley said.
Library trustees have no plans to pack up the ghosts that have been reported to reside in the old building on Elm Street.
“John (Hawley) said the town will put the building up for sale. I guess the ghosts can go to whoever buys it,” Petersons said.