2012-06-15 / Front Page

Language set for Cape Elizabeth library public vote

By Jack Flagler Staff Writer

While Cape Elizabeth residents headed out to the polls on Tuesday to vote in the statewide primary elections, the Cape Elizabeth Town Council was already preparing for a vote in November.

After months of discussion, on June 11 the council finalized the language that will appear on a referendum this fall asking voters if the town should fund a new Thomas Memorial Library.

The council made only minor changes to the proposed language of the referendum. Instead of asking voters, “shall the Town of Cape Elizabeth borrow $6.0 million,” the final language will read “shall the Town of Cape Elizabeth borrow up to $6.0 million.”

Councilor David Sherman explained the reason behind the small change.

“I think it’s important to have some flexibility going forward and I think it’s important to citizens to understand that we may continue, either through the council or building committee, to figure out ways to make the project more economical,” he said.

Town Manager Michael McGovern cautioned that the change may cause some voters to doubt how much thought the council put into the $6 million figure, but he added that most referenda of this nature do include the clause.

The council also decided to simply ask voters to fund a new Thomas Memorial Library, rather than a library “and cultural center,” in hopes of limiting voter confusion. Council Chairman Sara Lennon said she was worried including the phrase would deter voters who would otherwise support the library.

“I’m afraid people might read it and say, ‘I’m in favor of a library, but I don’t think we need a cultural center and therefore I’m voting no.’ I don’t want to lose votes on our language,” Lennon said.

Sherman added, “In my view a library is a cultural center, even if you don’t call it that. There’s programming at the library that appeals to preschool citizens right up to senior citizens, so I’m not wedded to the words ‘cultural center’ in this referendum question.”

The final language for the library referendum passed unanimously, but the council’s discussion was not without debate. Councilor Frank Governali said he was concerned that the cost of the project was still “too big and too expensive,” particularly in a time of economic stress. Governali stressed his support for the library’s programs, but said, “The current plan is overkill” for a town as small as Cape Elizabeth, and said he hopes new approaches can develop in the months between now and the final referendum vote.

The library project was not the only possible referendum the council discussed at the June 11 meeting. On July 9, Cape Elizabeth will host a public hearing to discuss a proposed charter amendment that would require an automatic citizen vote on any town expenditures costing more than $1 million. After the public hearing, the council will make a decision as to whether to submit the charter amendment to voters on Nov. 6.

Staff Writer Jack Flagler can be reached at 282-4337 ext. 219.

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