Contrary to public input at 2013 meeting, report calls for new Rockport library at former school site

Posted June 25, 2014, at 8:45 a.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — A committee has recommended that a new town library be built at the former Rockport Elementary School site adjacent to the intersection of routes 1 and 90.

That recommendation from the Rockport Library Committee’s steering committee, issued last week, contrasts with the sentiment expressed by the majority of people who turned out last July at public hearing held on the subject. The majority of the 100 people who crammed into that hearing urged that a new library be located at the current site.

At that meeting, a petition signed by 112 residents who want the library kept at its location on Russell Avenue was presented to the Select Board.

The steering committee met from March through June, considering eight potential sites including the current location.

The existing library covers 3,324 square feet but the steering committee determined that a minimum of 10,000 square feet is needed to meet current needs and that 14,000-square-feet would be needed in the foreseeable future.

The sites considered were the existing one, Memorial Park across from the library, a combination of those two sites, the former Rockport Elementary School property, the property to be vacated by the Center for Maine Contemporary Art when it moves to Rockland next year, at the Camden Hills Regional High School off Route 90, a vacant lot on Central Street next to Mary Lea Park, and any unspecified large commercial lot on Route 1.

The only three suitable choices, according to the steering committee, were the site of the former school, the combined current and Memorial Park site, and the lot next to Mary Lea Park.

The former school site was selected because it has adequate space for a 14,000-square-foot building of different configurations and would provide sufficient parking, according to the committee. The lot is also already owned by the town and will not require acquisition costs, is more centrally located for the town, retains the current library during construction, and will preserve Memorial Park, the panel concluded.

The downsides of building at the combined current library and Memorial Park sites are the loss of green space, inability to construct a 14,000-square-foot building, and higher operational costs because the building would have to be two stories if built there, the committee stated in its report. In addition, the committee determined that the current site would result in additional traffic and pedestrian safety concerns.

Town Manager Richard Bates said the full library committee will now try to determine the best way to proceed.

The issue must also go before the select board before it could be sent to voters in a referendum.

In May 2013, the library committee voted to endorse the construction of a library at the former Rockport Elementary School site near the intersection of routes 1 and 90.

The library committee is an independent board elected by town residents.

The estimated cost last year of a new 14,000-square-foot library at the former school site was $3 million to $5 million.

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