Wadleigh repairs vex trustees

Library has ‘half a million miles on it’

MILFORD – Wadleigh Memorial Library trust­ees continue to wrestle with the problem of their deteriorating building.

In March, voters reject­ed their plans for a new li­brary for the second year in a row, and now trustees have to decide what to re­pair, how much money to spend on repairs and how to convince townspeople to pass a bond for a new building.

At their May meeting, trustee Judy Gross asked architect Ron Lamarre, of Lavallee Brensinger, how other towns succeed in getting big bonds passed. Lamarre, who designed the plan for the pro­posed 21,000-square-foot replacement, said they come up with numbers that show "the cost of do­ing nothing."

He compared the deci­sion-making process about replacing a public build­ing to one a person would use when replacing a car.

"You have a building with about half a million miles on it," he said, with problems that include flooding, rotting windows and ceiling defects.

No one knows when a major part of the building will fail, he said.

The elevator, for exam­ple, dates from 1986 and has never had its electron­ic equipment replaced, and the town could end up dealing with a $100,000 expense.

"People come into the library and get the ser­vices they need, and they don’t see what Joel is do­ing," he said, referring to Wadleigh’s facilities man­ager, Joel Trafford.

Several people men­tioned the commonly heard adage that it takes three years for a bond for a new town building to pass in Milford.

The two newest fa­cilities, the ambulance building and police sta­tion, had the backing of the Board of Selectmen, which has not recom­mended the library bond and voted against it 4-1.

Selectmen acknowl­edged the need for a new building, and they said there were too many mon­ey items on the ballot this year.

During the trustees’ meeting, selectmen’s rep­resentative on the library board, Kathy Bauer, said a library "is a harder sell than a police station," and selectmen did not consider it an emergency.

Trustees talked about the possibility of offering two options to voters next year – a bond for a new building and funds for re­pairs – but Mike Tule said it would be a big mistake. Two warrant articles would split the vote and the bond wouldn’t get the majority it needs.

Despite open houses and other outreach ef­forts over the last two years, the $5.6 million library bond did not get a majority vote this year, let alone the 60 percent needed, and actually did worse than the previous year, with almost 500 ad­ditional negative votes.

Town officials seemed to agree that voters were determined not to raise taxes. Both the town and school operating budgets were rejected for the sec­ond year in a row, and so were three public works vehicles and a $3 million bond for school improve­ments.

During the May trust­ees meeting, there were reports on building prob­lems, including a fire de­partment inspection that says the building’s old ceiling and insulation should be removed and the insulation replaced with a more modern and energy efficient product.

"This will removed the potential of the old ceiling collapsing the suspended ceiling and the potential for issues with the ex­posed wiring," wrote Capt. Jason Smedick.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.