Town Meeting members, voters to determine future of Shrewsbury library
By John Swinconeck, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – For the second time in three years, residents are being asked whether to approve a multimillion dollar renovation and expansion of Shrewsbury Public Library. The Board of Selectmen approved during its Sept. 24 meeting a Town Meeting (TM) warrant and special election that would pave the way for the library improvements.
Under a funding formula known as Chapter 149A, the renovation/expansion would cost a projected $26.46 million, maximum, with $16.75 million to be borrowed under debt exclusion. About $8 million would be paid through a state grant, and $1.75 million would be gotten through fund-raising.
TM members would have to approve the appropriation for the grant on Oct. 21. Voters would decide whether to grant the debt exclusion during an election held Nov. 5, according to Town Manager Daniel J. Morgado.
However, the project would have come in $2 million less using a different funding formula. Under that method, the town would borrow $14.2 million of an overall estimated cost of $23.9 million.
However, the Chapter 149A formula includes costs for contingencies. Town officials also cited the Sherwood Middle School project, funded through 149A, which came in on time and under budget.
“I happen to think it’s an excellent value for the taxpayer,” Morgado said.
Morgado stressed that funding would be done through debt exclusion, not an override.
An override enables a community to permanently increase its levy limit, while exclusion only allows for a temporary increase in taxes over a community’s levy limit, according to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
“A debt exclusion is the minimal amount to service the debt for this project, not a penny more,” Morgado said.
Voters rejected a library expansion and renovation project in 2011. Many voters were concerned that state grants were not guaranteed, and that the project was too large, according to Morgado.
Since then, Morgado said, the project has been scaled back in size with the help of a new design team, while the $8 million grant has been guaranteed.
The design also includes a multipurpose room that can be closed off and locked from the rest of the building for use as a community meeting space available after the library closes.
The new design also includes improvements to the children’s area, circulation, and adult electronic services.
The existing library is more than 25,000 square feet in size. Under the proposal, that would increase to about 38,000 square feet, according to Library Director Ellen Dolan. The library is also looking at adding new computers for adults, teens, and children, Dolan said.
The number of parking spaces would increase from 48 to 98, she added.
A building that formerly housed a credit union on the property would be taken down during the expansion.
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