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Override for Scituate library could exceed $5 million

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 16, 2013 02:37 PM

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The size of the expected override to help fund the renovation of the Scituate Town Library has grown to more than $5 million, as supporters say a condensed timeline has prevented them from hitting their fund-raising goals.

Supporters have been hoping to raise private donations that match a $5 million grant given to the town by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The total cost of the project, which would increase the size of and renovate the aging Scituate Town Library, is estimated at $12 million.

If the library’s Capital Campaign had met its goals, that would have left $2 million to be funded by the town. But supporters have dropped their fund-raising goal to $2 million, leaving $5 million to be funded through an override.

Thus far, however, the money raised is well short of the new target, so an override to be voted on this fall will probably seek the full amount needed to complete funding on the project. The debt would be adjusted after all donations are collected.

“We’ve had the dates shifted on us by the State Library Commission,” said Les Ball, co-chair of the Capital Campaign. “They moved it up two years and we have two years less to raise the money.”

The grant was initially anticipated for July 2015; however, it will be received in July 2013. That early announcement came with a requirement to have the remaining money in hand by July 2013.

Ball said the Capital Campaign won’t have that money in hand for the deadline, but have asked for a six-month extension.

With that in mind, Ball said the organization's goal is to raise $1 million by the fall, and the remaining $1 million by mid-January 2014. Currently, the organization has raised $600,000.

“We will go to Town Meeting in the fall and get a vote to get the rest of the money,” Ball said. “What we need to do is show we have the additional $7 million – from a combination of private and town funding [to keep the grant].”

The request will come in the form of a debt-exclusion override.

Ball said he's optimistic residents will support the request, even though the town is grappling with several other expensive items, including sea wall repairs and other storm-related costs, as well as the potential funding of a master plan to renovate the Gates Middle School into a town hall, build a new school, and build a public safety facility.

“[The library is] for every part of the community, and every part is served from small children to [residents of] varying age … one of the things this town lacks is meeting space, and there will be eight meeting rooms. It almost becomes a community center,” Ball said.

He estimated that a $5 million override would cost the average citizen $35 a year, Ball said.

“That’s less than $3 a month, or two books a year,” Ball said. “It’s cheap money when you look at it that way. And not only that, there’s $3 million in repair that has to go on anyway.”

Ball said there is already support among some town officials, including members of the Board of Selectmen and the Advisory Committee.

An intensive outreach campaign, that has been ongoing for the last several months, is also bringing residents on board.

“Equally important and perhaps even more important is to raise public awareness – why are we doing this, why does the library need an expansion and renovation?” said Skip DeBrusk, another co-chair of the Capital Campaign Committee.

DeBrusk emphasized the importance of the renovation by citing statistics that show 75 people go through the library’s doors every hour it’s open, and in a town of 18,000, 15,000 came through the library’s doors just last year.

“You just can’t have that kind of activity without needing expansion and renovation,” he said.

To spread that word, the group has been hosting dozens of coffee hours or wine and cheese nights to help solicit donations and talk to people about the project. People have even set up payments to be given over time.

In addition to coffee hour talks, another project, called “1000 Homes”, is looking to find 1,000 donors who will donate $1,000 or more.

Perhaps the most public effort has been a “Go Fish!” fund-raiser. Approximately 60 fish were carved and then painted by local artists. All will be at the library on May 1 at Scituate Town Library for public viewing, and then will be installed in various locations around town.

Numerous other events have been tied in to the “Go Fish!” theme, including a kids day on June 1, a judging event to determine which 15 fish are auctioned in a live auction, and a silent auction where the fish are displayed for people to buy the works of art.

On Aug. 16, the Campaign Committee will then host a “Go Fish! Auction” at Scituate Country Club, where the top fish will be sold for the cause.

Those initiatives, coupled with research into possible grants to further defray the cost, have supporters optimistic that they will prevail.

“Our mothers and fathers have given us good libraries to use and we need to give our children a good library to use,” Ball said. ”This library is the borderline of being adequate. We need to give [our residents] the library they need to go forward.”

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