POLAND - The Town of Poland Senior Citizens learned about the proposed building project for the town hall and Kennedy Free Library at their September luncheon.
Kathy Stanton, Sandy Tompsett, and Tim Mead from the building committee gave a presentation showing the plans developed to increase the library space and update the electrical and heating systems for the building. An elevator would be added to make the building handicap accessible. Ms. Stanton referred those attending to the project website, www.topbuildingproject.org, for anyone who would like further information, including a history of the project and detailed plans that could be printed. There were also handouts available at a display for those who wished them.
Ms. Stanton said that after all the studies were completed, it was decided that renovating the current building was the best option. It is a historic building, and work would be done to return it to its former appearance, while increasing efficiency. By using the existing structure, walkability to the services in the downtown area would be maintained. The addition would provide true handicap accessibility, which has been badly lacking. Voting has taken place in the Kennedy fire hall for several years because of access issues. The upper level has been unusable due to safety concerns.
Members of the Town of Poland Senior Citizens looking over the display and materials about the new Town Hall/Kennedy Free Library building proposal to be on the ballot in November.
Mr. Mead told those present that the current library has a great need for expanded space. All of the materials the library currently has cannot be displayed under the present cramped conditions. The expansion would also allow the library to expand its media room and add more computers and classes. A nook where patrons can relax with some coffee and read is part of the plans, while a new children's room would add to the library experience. Movable shelving would allow space to be utilized for meetings and other events as well.
Ms. Stanton said the project would be funded mainly through a $1.3 million bond taken out by the Town, and paid back over a fifteen-year period. The maximum increase for taxpayers would be $1.20 per thousand assessed valuation. This was equated to a tank of gas for the average homeowner in the town. "So it is certainly a sacrifice to make, but it's an investment in our community, and in our future," stated Ms. Stanton. She went on to say that if the community does nothing, the current building will eventually not be functional, and then what would be done? The committee's information compared the Town of Poland's tax rate to that of neighboring towns, showing that the Town of Poland has been very fiscally responsible in the past.
Several questions were asked when the floor was opened for comments.
One gentleman asked, "If this gets voted down, what are they going to do, what's their next move?"
Ms. Stanton replied that the committee had thought about that. One thing is the risk of a lawsuit.
"We've already been named by the Americans With Disabilities Act as a voting place that is not accessible,'' she said. ''I know we use the fire hall for voting, but this is a separate entrance, it's considered not equal access."
She said they'll also miss an opportunity.
The Town Board and the Kennedy Free Library have considered separate projects before, but everyone is working together on this effort. Ms. Stanton stated that she wasn't sure what would be done if the proposal were rejected in November, that they would have to "go back to the drawing board."
She also noted that the committee chose to bring the matter to a public vote.
"You don't have to do that even when you're spending this kind of money,'' she said ''You can have what is called a permissive referendum, which means you put a little ad in the legal notices in The Post-Journal. If a citizen sees it and says 'I object,' they have to go get a petition signed with 10 percent of the voters, to say 'No, wait a minute, I don't want you to do that,' then it would go to a mandatory referendum. But we didn't want to take that route, and not have people informed about what was gonna happen."
When asked by another person about a backup plan, Ms. Stanton said a ramp had been considered, but it would have to be so long it would take up the parking lot, and then you'd have the problem of keeping it cleared for use during bad weather. Different locations had been considered by different groups, but it was decided that a shared building made more sense than leaving an empty building.
The person then said, "That's why the school built their new building, because they didn't want it anymore. For the money you're spending, you could build a whole new building for the library, for the Town, something like Ellington did, and have everything new."
Ms. Stanton said the architectural firm had gone over the present building and pronounced it structurally sound.
When it was suggested that it might make more sense to build new and tear down the old building, Sandy Tompsett said that was looked into. The cost would be about the same, and you would have the added responsibility of what to do with the library and the town offices, while a new building was erected. Updates will make the building more energy-efficient, but will restore the facade of the current building to a more aesthetic appearance. She also noted that if the proposal passes, the project could then be eligible for different grants.
"They want to make sure that we have the backing of the public before they'll even consider to give us grants," she said.
Ms. Tompsett told everyone there would be a public meeting at 7 p.m., Oct. 19 in the Kennedy fire hall to discuss the project. If any other groups would like to have the project explained, they can contact members of the building committee.