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Voters shelve new library proposal; Vote on plan nearly a tie.

Byline: Patricia J. James

BOYLSTON - Voters at a special town meeting last night shot down a proposal to build a new library, eliminating the need for a special election that had been scheduled for tomorrow.

The article to borrow up to $4.75 million to build the library on land at the Hillside site on Main Street needed a two-thirds vote to pass, contingent on the outcome of tomorrow's debt exclusion vote. It received 110 votes in support and 109 votes against in a ballot vote at last night's special town meeting.

The town's existing library, in the former First Congregational Church at 695 Main St., has been called cramped and outdated.

Library trustee Brad Barker said the Board of Trustees has been trying for 10 years to get a new library. In 2005, expansion plans were denied by the Zoning Board. The Hillside property has plenty of room for the library, as well as parking and maybe a senior center in the future, Mr. Barker told voters. It is also better than the library's existing location, because Hillside - the large municipal complex on Main Street that includes Town Hall, the combined police-fire station, the John B. Gough House and athletic fields - already has a lot of natural traffic.

"There is a lot of activity up there at Hillside," Mr. Barker said.

The project would have cost $5.1 million, but Mr. Barker said $350,000 has already been collected through fundraising efforts. The building was proposed at 12,000 square feet, about three times the size of the current library. Mr. Barker said the town's population is about three times what it was when the library was built in the early 1900s. Because the previous efforts to expand the library failed, the opportunity to get state funding was lost, he said.

Mr. Barker urged voters to approve the project, saying private foundations might offset costs through a grant, that interest rates are currently low and that construction firms have shown interest in bidding on the project, meaning that a good deal could be reached.

"We can't promise any of those, but the fact is, the trustees are taxpayers too," he said, adding they would work to keep costs down. "There may not be a better time to build the library."

Several opponents of the project said while they feel it is worthwhile, this is not the time to spend the money.

Resident David Murphy said he applauded the dedication to bring the library project forth again, but that the country is headed into recession and foreclosures are happening at a feverish rate. Senior citizens are struggling to buy food and keep up with energy costs, he said.

"This is not the time to be a big spender," he said.

Resident Lori Levy said she has children who would enjoy a new library, but she would rather go to the libraries in Shrewsbury or Westboro than raise taxes at this time.

Other opponents said they would rather see the money going to the schools, especially Tahanto Regional High School, where last night's meeting was held.

Lynn Butler, who is also on the Library Planning Committee, spoke in favor of the project, saying the town is at a point of either doing something great "or putting another Band-Aid on something that needs surgery."

Several proponents of the project echoed Ms. Butler's remarks, saying the library would serve as a community center and benefit more than just the town's bookworms, and that this project is about looking to the future.

In other business, voters transferred $10,000 from the treasury to buy equipment for an aerial ladder truck for the Fire Department; amended the zoning bylaws to change the name of the "Watershed Protection District" to "Limited Industrial District;" and accepted Pleasant Lane, Maple Way, Madera Court, and an alteration and extension of Sylvan Lane as public ways.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 4, 2008
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