RUMFORD — A germ of an idea that began nearly a decade ago has become a solid proposal for building a new public library.
The Rumford Public Library Growth Committee released a tentative plan Friday that calls for moving the original approximately 3,000-square-foot, circa-1904 Carnegie Library from its current site along the banks of the Androscoggin River to the lot that was once the home of Stephens Memorial High School, on Penobscot Street.
"When I saw the graphic design, I thought this is what it should have been," said Kathy Sutton, co-chairwoman of the growth committee.
The group has been working with Scott Simons Architects of Portland for almost 10 years on proposed additions to the current library, which had a nearly 3,000-square-foot addition built in 1969, or on an entirely new facility for siting on Penobscot Street. Some public surveys have generally shown a desire to keep the current historical library, while the architects and growth committee have recommended a new structure.
The recently released proposal follows roughly a year of little action by the committee because of the poor economy.
It was President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that prompted the group to reactivate library building plans, Sutton said.
Within the act are billions of dollars earmarked for schools and public libraries.
Proponents of building a new library on a new site have said that the original site provides little space for parking because it was originally built for walkers, and that insufficient space is available for a modern facility that would include growing technological needs, community rooms and library usage.
Ginny Todd, assistant library director and children's librarian, said Monday that fungus grows in the corner of the children's library, and water often seeps through the foundation. Parking has also been a serious issue. About 12 spaces are located down a steep driveway adjacent to the library. A few others are located adjacent to the library.
Opponents have said that the population of the town has decreased, therefore eliminating the need for more space, are concerned about cost in a town that has lost many jobs, and have argued that the historic building is an asset to the community.
Sutton said the possibility of moving the original section could satisfy the opponents.
The latest proposal calls for $3.2 million to move the current library and to build a new section. The original building would serve as the main entrance to the new library facility. The cost to move the brick library is estimated at about $275,000, demolition of the addition at $30,000, $2.1 million for the new structure, and the remaining $800,000 for architectural fees, site preparation, furnishings and equipment, and possible contingency costs.
The actual physical move of the library could be a community-wide event, she said.
Sutton said a major question about replacing the current library has always been the future use of the Carnegie Library building.
The new facility would have 18 on-site parking spaces, 50 on-street spaces, about 10,500-square-feet of area, several meeting rooms, additional computers, an elevator, and a performance space.
Sutton said the current lot is adjacent to the recently developed trail system, and could become a park or a natural amphitheater.
The growth committee will meet at 5 p.m., July 15, to decide what its next step will be.
If plans are successful, the entire project could be completed in less than 18 months.