Washington voters say it’s due time for library addition
WASHINGTON — Voters here fittingly answered a question involving their library with a whisper Tuesday, narrowly approving a plan to make that nearly century-old facility accessible to those with disabilities.
A $185,000 bond issue, which would finance construction of a one-story addition to the Calef Memorial Library, was approved 267-228.
Though the margin could have been wider, the 39-vote cushion was fine with Andrea Poulin, chairwoman of the library’s board of trustees.
“I’ll take it,” Poulin said. “I’m very pleased.”
According to Poulin, the strong turnout by well over half of the town’s 700-plus registered voters was the real story. “I feel good that we had a lot of people voting on this issue,” she said.
That has not always been the case.
At town meeting in 2011 library trustees secured approval of a pricier proposal, 39-19. That vote capped a 90-minute debate that featured two paper ballots and ended when voters agreed to spend $215,000 on a handicapped-accessible addition.
That vote didn’t stand. A petition signed by 79 registered voters forced a revote, at which voters reversed the earlier decision. Voters agreed, 64-59, to reconsider their Town Meeting Day decision and then voted 61-52 rescind it.
Though a petition could force yet another revote, Poulin argued Tuesday’s results represented the clearest signal of how town voters feel about a project for which they have annually appropriated $3,000 for many years.
Poulin said the library board would meet Thursday to discuss how to proceed.
According to the board’s worst-case projections, property owners could expect to pay an extra $16 a year in taxes for every $100,000 of assessed value if the ballot item were approved. That figure doesn’t reflect grants the town might receive for the work or the fact that the library board would discontinue the annual request for $3,000 as seed money for the accessibility project.
Plans for the addition have been modified slightly from the ones that were presented last year. The most notable change involves including a handicapped-accessible restroom in the addition instead of upgrading the one in the basement of the historic brick library.
The proposed addition would still house a lift so disabled patrons can access the elevated main floor of the red-brick library that was built in 1919, as well as its basement meeting room. The accessible entrance to the proposed 640-square-foot addition would be on the Jailhouse Road side of the library, according to the latest plans.
Voters who narrowly passed the library bond overwhelmingly approved the School Board’s request to incur up to $17,058 in “interest-free” debt through Green Mountain Power Corp.’s Evergreen Fund. The article passed, 393-100.
The money, which will be borrowed for up to five years and repaid with anticipated energy savings, would finance the installation of energy-efficient lights in the town’s pre-K-through-8 elementary school. Based on current utility rates, school officials are projecting annual energy savings of roughly $3,800.
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