Bangor residents to vote on library roof replacement bond this summer

The Bangor Public Library needs $3 million to replace the copper roof on the building. The current roof has outlived its use and is causing water damage in parts of the building.
The Bangor Public Library needs $3 million to replace the copper roof on the building. The current roof has outlived its use and is causing water damage in parts of the building.
Posted March 11, 2013, at 10:09 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Residents likely will decide on June 11 whether the city should take out a bond for up to $3 million toward the Bangor Public Library’s copper roof replacement.

Library officials met with city councilors Monday evening for a workshop to cover the library’s renovation plans.

The library has been trying to stem damage caused by wear and corrosion to the building’s 100-year-old copper roof. Officials say “Band-Aids” won’t work anymore.

That $3 million would go toward a new copper roof and extensive work on the roof structure itself, especially the second-floor Bangor Room, where the roof has sagged three inches and is being supported by scaffolding. Leaks have threatened collections in other parts of the original building, as well as its 1950s-era expansion. Library staff entered the building in October to find a “river” flowing down the marble staircases near the entrance.

The bond question would require a vote under a charter amendment passed by Bangor voters in the November election, which requires a referendum if a project exceeds a certain dollar amount. Under that amendment, a majority of voters in the election would need to approve the bond. However, if the total number of votes cast is less than 10 percent of the registered voters in the city, then the bond question will automatically pass.

A first reading of the referendum will appear on the March 25 council agenda, which would allow the council to meet the 60-day-notice requirement to get the question on the June 11 ballot.

Library officials and roofing experts have said other alternatives were considered, but that copper is the best fit because of its longevity, aesthetics and limited need for upkeep.

John Rohman of the library’s board of trustees said that while a metal seam roof would be much less expensive, it could require multiple replacements during the lifespan of one copper roof. He said the copper roof would be a “proven,” once-in-a-century investment.

Bids on the project were accepted Monday, and the library’s board of trustees expects to select the winning bid by March 25, with construction to begin in June, pending the result of the vote. The lowest bid thus far is about $2.7 million, according to library director Barbara McDade.

Councilor Patricia Blanchette said now would be the best time to take out a bond and get the project done because interest rates are low. Library officials also said that the need is urgent, as another winter with the current roof would only lead to more damage to the library’s interior.

Renovation plans stretch beyond the copper roof. Bangor Public Library is in the midst of a $9 million fundraising campaign that also aims to secure $3 million to modernize the library’s interior, $2 million to increase the endowment fund and $1 million toward a contingency fund.

In other business, during Monday night’s regular council meeting, councilors approved a resolution calling on the Legislature to not support Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed budget and to fully fund municipal revenue sharing, education and tax relief programs that were cut.

Bangor stands to lose $3.7 million through the loss of revenue sharing, and millions more in eliminations or changes to other programs.

“This City Council will be faced with the unacceptable choice of either severely cutting essential municipal services or dramatically increasing the property tax burden on our fellow residents,” the resolution states.

The city is hosting a town hall meeting on the potential effects of the proposed budget from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council voted to:

• Designate the Cross Insurance Center as the city’s new voting venue. Residents who vote there on June 11 will get a tour of the arena.

• Convert McKinley Street into a one-way street.

• Prohibit parking on the western side of French Street from Cumberland Street to Garland Street. The change was requested by a resident. City staff said that the narrowness made it difficult for passenger cars, buses and emergency vehicles to navigate the street.

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