Public input sought on library’s future

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RUMFORD – Residents in Rumford will not only decide whether to approve an extensive renovation and addition to the Region 9 School of Technology when they go to the polls on Tuesday. They will also cast a nonbinding vote on the future of the Rumford Public Library.

Selectman Mark Belanger asked for the poll at a board meeting last month.

“The people need to voice their comments before we spend a bunch of money on a conceptual drawing,” he said.

Voters will be asked to decide whether to build a new, one-story library on the site of the former Stephens High School on York Avenue; or, to conduct a major renovation of the existing 1903 Carnegie library that includes a three-level addition; or, do minimal repairs to bring the brick facility up to code. No solid cost estimates are available.

Funds for the conceptual study for a new library, at about $15,000, come from a $10,000 grant and a $5,000 contribution from the Rumford Public Library Board of Trustees.

The Library Growth Committee recommends construction of a new facility over a long period of time without the use of town funds. Kathy Sutton, chairwoman of the committee, said in an informational sheet that new construction would be the most economical option in the long run, and also would address the needs of the Rumford community by providing an up-to-date facility for the 21st century.

The committee believes an extensive renovation to the current library would have a negative impact on the historic structure. Instead, the committee wants the 104-year-old structure to be developed for use by another community organization. The committee also believes that limiting work to making necessary repairs would be expensive, while not serving long-term community needs.

Regardless of the outcome of the straw poll, Sutton said the committee would continue to lay out a detailed impact for each option and hold public informational hearings of the preferred plan. A binding vote has been planned for June.

Town Manager Stephen Eldridge said the straw poll will give an indication of what the people want without having all the information.

Belanger said he would go along with whichever option voters choose. He said he proposed the straw poll because he had received telephone calls from residents asking him what was going on with the library.

Eldridge said he expects the board to take up the results of the nonbinding vote at the Feb. 1 selectmen’s meeting.

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