Milford library back to drawing board

MILFORD – Library trustees are taking another look at building expansion plans after proposals for a new facility were turned down by voters two years in a row.

Last week, Wadleigh Memorial Library trustees and Director Betsy Solon went to the selectmen’s meeting and told town officials they’ve formed a task force to examine why voters rejected the $5.6 million project in 2015 and 2016.

“Trustees are taking a back seat, she said, because it failed twice, trustee Chris Costantino told the board.

The current facility is considered in overall bad shape and too small for the community it serves.

But residents had said the proposal for a 21,000 square foot building was too expensive, too ugly or not needed.

“Perhaps we could build a smaller building and still fill the needs,” she said.

Voters also said they were not provided with specific enough costs.

The task force has divided into working groups, one that would get costs, and is lucky to have enlisted two men who work in construction for help, Costantino said.

Another working group will come up with a marketing strategy and another would determine square footage, since the original numbers go back to 2007.

The group’s next meeting is Aug. 8 and selectmen were invited to participate.

“We need you guys on board,” Costantino said. “I’m convinced that if you truly understood” the cost of maintaining the aging facility, they would support it.

Prior to the 2016 vote the board had voted 4-1 not to support it, saying there were higher priorities.

Next year, the board will face the need to buy expensive equipment for area communications center.

“To me that’s a higher priority,” said Selectman Gary Daniels said and asked if there was any way to phase in the project.

That’s why selectmen should go to the library planning meetings, Costantino said, “to bring a different perspective.”

The library was built in two parts in the 1950s and 1980s and officials say it does not have enough quiet areas, children’s spaces or meeting rooms to satisfy the demands, and there are problems with moisture, flooding and rotten windows.

The project has been on the town’s Capital Improvement Committee list 14 times since 1995 but was pushed off in favor of other projects, including the ambulance and police facilities.

The new task force is made up of three trustees, three library staff members and 15 other residents.

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

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