RUMFORD — Rather than going ahead and fixing longtime code violations at Rumford Public Library to comply with the American Disabilities Act, selectmen voted 5-0 Thursday night to let voters decide through a nonbinding question at town meeting in June.
The issue was tabled from the board’s April 15 meeting after Selectman Greg Buccina motioned to have Town Manager Carlo Puiia draft a town warrant question asking voters whether they want to build a new library, build an addition on the library or repair the library until it becomes code compliant.
Reading the draft question, Puiia said it now gives voters two choices: correct code violations, do utility upgrades and the expansion on site at an estimated cost of $2.1 million, or correct the code violations and make utility upgrades only for an estimated $854,000.
“That’s just an advisory question, right?” Board of Selectmen Chairman Brad Adley asked.
“Well, the way it is written, this would be a binding question, and that is up to the board tonight to make that decision,” Puiia said.
Selectman Mark Belanger said that if the question is binding, voters should be given a third choice.
Faced with only two choices, Belanger said that was pushing voters into spending money no matter which option they choose, but the article doesn’t say how that money would be raised or whether the work would be done all at once or piecemeal as needed over a period of years.
“I think we wanted to put this to rest once and for all,” Selectman Frank DiConzo said. “And let the people tell us which way they want us to go.”
Buccina said that when he sought a question on the ballot, he simply wanted to know what residents would support, and then the board would ask library trustees to work with the Library Growth Committee or selectmen to apply for grants to do the work.
He said he was concerned that adding cost estimates would put the board under the gun time-wise to get the work finished for the listed amount.
“These are the estimates today, but if we go after some grants that take until the next fiscal year, and then come back and say the people supported this, so now we’re going to do this, but would that estimate be $6 million then?” Buccina asked.
He also said that because the board knew about the code violations, it needs to fix them.
DiConzo said that’s why he wanted to keep the question to voters simple, to learn what they want done with the library.
Buccina suggested not asking the question and correcting the code violations. After much more discussion, DiConzo motioned to put the question on the ballot, subject to the town attorney’s review concerning project costs, and to make it nonbinding.
“We need to know what the people want,” DiConzo reiterated.