Shrewsbury – A ballot vote to expand and renovate the Shrewsbury Public Library was approved Nov. 5, 4,840 to 3,309.
The town will receive approximately $8 million from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for the project. The town's portion, $13.3 million, will be funded through a debt exclusion. Supporters have committed to also raising $1.75 million through fundraising endeavors.
Supporters for both sides of the vote had come out in full force in recent weeks, with each arguing for their position through editorials, information sessions and yard signs. A similar measure had been rejected by the voters in 2011.
The renovations for the library, built in 1903, would create a more efficient space for the public and staff, according to the Library Building Committee. The plan proposes 44 new computers, as opposed to the current building's 13 computers, and would be 38,600 total square feet as opposed to the existing 25,500. The project also aims to increase the number of parking spaces and expand seating options.
Library Director Ellen Dolan expressed gratitude to all of those who had put so much time and energy into helping to get the word out into the community about the proposal prior to the vote.
“I am so grateful to all the people who worked so hard to accomplish this overwhelmingly positive vote. I's especially indebted to town officials like Town Manager Dan Morgado – who was such a steady and effective voice explaining the merits of the project, to the Board of Selectmen who were out working each day to explain the project and advocate for support – and to [State] Rep. Matt Beaton who took such a public and supportive stand – all who came out and powerfully voiced their support,” she said. “I also wish to thank the leadership of the campaign for the Shrewsbury public library – Laurie and Matt Hogan, Errol Ethier, Jason Palitsch and Beth Casavant. They and the over 100 volunteers contributed hundreds of hours – and gave their heart and soul to the effort.”
“And I want to thank all the people who came out to vote on Tuesday – whether their vote was for or against,” she added. “The turnout was very high – showing amazing interest in the question. I feel that this project is a start to a new chapter in our community and our library.”
Brian Austin, the chair of the Committee for a Smaller Library, a group that had fought against the measure, also commented after the final numbers were reported.
“We objected to the high $23 million cost of this smaller project. This is $4.9 million more expensive than the 2011 rejected project. The state approved a 10 percent reduction in size, but the architect reduced the size by only 7 percent,” he said in an email. “The soft costs for extras went up $2 million on the new design, (54 percent).? If the cost for extras and the building size are reduced, the cost of the new design should come in at or below $20 million thus reducing the taxpayer's debt to close to $10 million. Now that the project is in the hands of the town officials we hope that they will bring the project in at a lower cost.”
According to Town Clerk Sandra Wright, 8,154 registered voters (36 percent) came out to the polls.