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Effort for new library tries again; Question on ballot next May.

Byline: Bill Fortier

AUBURN - It looks like voters are going to get another chance to vote on whether to build a new library.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday night to place a debt exclusion question for the town's cost of the $16 million project on the May 21 annual town election ballot.

The debt exclusion question at this year's annual town election, asking voters to pay the town's $12 million share of the project, was defeated 1,899 to 1,073.

Library Director Joan F. Noonan said two things have changed since May, and that gives the board of library trustees and library supporters a second shot at a new facility.

When the vote occurred at the annual town election in May, the state Board of Library Commissioners had not officially awarded a grant for the library, although the town was first on the state's list. Legislators were still trying to determine how much money would be allocated to the state Board of Library Commissioners for grants.

Last month, the state commission awarded the town a $4.19 million grant for the new library, pending the approval of local funding. In addition, while there wasn't a state-set deadline for getting town approval of the local payment when the vote was taken in May, a deadline has now been set for Dec. 31, 2009, Ms. Noonan said.

"The main thing is we actually have a deadline,'' Ms. Noonan said yesterday. She had explained the request for a second vote on the library to the Board of Selectmen Monday night.

Ms. Noonan said the question for the May 2009 ballot is exactly the same question that was defeated last May.

Robert D. Grossman, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said yesterday the panel voted 5-0 to place the question on the 2009 annual town election ballot.

"There's no harm in putting it in front of the voters again," Mr. Grossman said.

Monday night's action by the selectmen is the first in a three-step process, Ms. Noonan said. The second step is to place an article on the May 7 annual town meeting warrant that asks to authorize the town to borrow the money, followed by the annual election two weeks later.

When the question was overwhelmingly shot down last May, Board of Library Trustees Chairman Roberta M. Baker said the economy was a major factor in the defeat.

Ms. Noonan, while acknowledging that some residents may ask why there is going to be another vote on a question that has already been defeated, said the library trustees worked on the proposal for 10 years.

"We wanted to give it one more try," said Ms. Noonan, an ex-officio member of the board of library trustees.

She also said the library trustees believe some people who would have voted for the project didn't make the trek to the ballot box in May. As a result, a more concentrated effort will be made to get people who support the project to vote.

"The library trustees did say they want to involve more people this time and they want to start working earlier, making people aware of the project," Ms. Noonan said.

The economy remains a matter of concern for many residents. Projections leading up to last May's vote were that a house assessed at $260,000 would see an increase of just over $100 in its tax bill. That amount is subject to change, based on the tax rate at the time of next year's annual town election.

"I think a lot of it will depend on heating costs this winter," Ms. Noonan said. "It's a difficult time, but if the winter goes better than anticipated ...We've worked hard on this, we wanted to give it one more chance. Miracles do happen."

The library marked its 40th anniversary last year. The new building would provide 39,650 square feet of space, more than double the current 14,500 square feet. Plans also call for a meeting room that would hold 125 people and a conference room and computer training lab for 25 people that would be open to the public after the library closes for the day.

NAME: AUBURN SELECTMEN; PROPOSITION 2-1/2 DEBT EXCLUSION
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 24, 2008
Words:702
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