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Town Meeting approves next steps toward new library

Posted by Megan McKee  January 13, 2011 10:45 PM

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Framingham Special Town Meeting members voted Thursday night to approve the design plans for a new McAuliffe Branch Library and to purchase a $710,000 parcel on Water Street where the new library would be located as long as Framingham gets a state grant and the regular Town Meeting approves the actual building project.

The affirmative votes gave the go-ahead for the next steps in a lengthy grant application process that library trustees started last fall with town approval.

If the town gets the grant—applications are due Jan. 27—the state will pay up to 50 percent of the library's estimated $8.5 million price tag.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Trustees said they'll announce grant winners in July. If Framingham is among the winners, the building project will go before Town Meeting in the fall..

Renderings and a model of the proposed one-floor, 17,000 square-foot building were on display Thursday night. Finegold, Alexander + Associates is the design firm, and they've come up with a modern slab structure with large windows ringed with trees.

The interior has an open layout that allows for significant flexibility as the library's needs change, said library officials.

Town Meeting members overwhelmingly approved the two articles Thursday at the special meeting that was delayed a day by the Nor'easter Wednesday. The measures had already been endorsed by the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, and Standing Committee on Ways and Means.

Not everyone supported the proposals. Resident Linda Levine said she's lived in Framingham for more than 50 years and uses the McAuliffe Branch Library all the time but doesn't support a new building.

“We have a very, very nice library downtown,” she said. Levine said the building's increased size would cost more money to maintain, and questioned whether such a big building—the existing McAuliffe Branch Library is 5,800 square feet, about one-third the proposed library's size—is actually needed. “As much as I love libraries, I just don't think this is the right climate to be building a library.”

Although the actual building project vote is contingent upon the grant and Town Meeting approval, library trustees and the town's chief financial officer laid out some financial information.

Framingham's chief financial officer, Mary Ellen Kelley, said in a presentation that the project would not require a tax increase override. Instead, it would be incorporated into the town's debt service and the town's operating budget wouldn't be impacted until fiscal year 2014.

Ruth Winett, chairwoman of the library's Board of Trustees, said the board has set up a nonprofit to raise private money for the library. She said they've already raised $17,000 and are aiming to raise $600,000 toward the project.

Board of Selectman chairman Dennis Giombetti called the project “financially viable” and said his board “wholeheartedly” supports the project as evidenced by its unanimous favorable vote.

Special Town Meeting also approved capital funding for new windows and doors at Stapleton Elementary School. The $1,020,000 project will be reimbursed 60 percent by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. This means the town will ultimately be on the hook for $431,562 after reimbursement.

School officials said that some of the school's aging windows and doors 100 years old and in desperate need of replacing. The project will save a significant amount in energy costs, said officials.

Read previous coverage on the proposed library here.

Megan McKee can be reached at megan.mckee@gmail.com.

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