RUMFORD – Parking problems, limited space and a century-old building that needs extensive repairs to bring it up to 21st century codes were among the reasons the Rumford Public Library Growth Committee has recommended that a whole new facility be built.

To show people these needs, the first of two tours and discussions was held Monday afternoon. About 30 people turned out.

“We agonized for more than a year on whether to move or renovate,” said committee Chairwoman Kathy Sutton. “We have the same number of books now that we had 25 years ago, and this is not an efficient building. We have outgrown it, and it has so many problems.”

Library director Karl Aromaa said the 1903 Carnegie library is among the most beautiful of the 1,700 that were built nationwide a century ago, but so much needs to be done.

He was one of several people who took small groups of five on tours.

The only insulation, he said, is in the attic. The septic cistern needs replacement, water seeps into the basement, including the children’s library, and there isn’t space for the services a modern library provides.

Not everyone is convinced that a new library, twice the space of the 6,200-square-foot library, is necessary.

“Why is the Library Growth Committee pushing for a new library? Why do you feel you can afford it?” asked library trustee Marie Boudreau.

She said the building could be brought up to code with an exterior lift that would make each floor accessible to handicapped people, a new parking lot, and more computers could be made available through the schools.

“This is a beautiful building and close to all the businesses. A lot of people can walk here. We need to renovate,” she said.

Proposed by the Library Growth Committee is a new one-story library with about twice the area to be built on a portion of the site of the former Stephens High School that was razed in 2000. The cost was estimated at about $2.4 million in 2007.

The town owns the land. Officials agreed to set it aside for possible use as the library site.

Estimated costs to bring the library up to code is $1 million, and to bring it up to code and construct an addition is $1.9 million.

Jolan Ippolito, a member of the committee, said a new library, if approved by voters, would have money raised over five to 10 years, and would be financed through a combination of taxes, fund-raising and grants.

Dennis Breton noted that in the time Rumford committees have discussed building or renovating their library, Farmington and Lewiston have completed similar projects.

“It’s time to make a decision and get going,” he said.

Concern for the future of the library may be addressed through the formation of a sub-committee that will explore potential uses for the historic building, said growth committee member Linda Macgregor.

A second tour and discussion meeting will be held next Monday, when the sessions begin at 7 p.m.

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