Advisory Finance Committee votes against Westborough library project for a second time

1179

Advisory Finance Committee votes against Westborough library project for a second time
Drone photography shows the Westborough library. (Photo/Tami White)

WESTBOROUGH – For the second time in three months, the Advisory Finance Committee has voted against recommending the Westborough Public Library expansion project.

In a review of the warrant articles for the Dec. 10 Special Town Meeting, committee members received some updates about the potential costs for the project.

The overall costs have gone down a bit, from $36 million to $35,161,867. This is due to some cost adjustments by the architect.

However, the recommended interest rate has gone up, from 4% to 4.5%. This could add $12 million to the price tag.

Committee members Beth Blumberg and Rod Shaffert asked whether the Congregational Church parking lot, which is frequently used by library patrons, would be part of the construction site.

“It’d be putting the church in an awful position,” said Shaffert.

In response, Town Manager Kristi Williams said she and Library Director Maureen Amyot have been having “ongoing conversations’ with the church.

Residents, committee weighs in

Several residents asked the committee to recommend approval of the project.

“The library is the beating heart of the village,” said Lester Hensley.

Supporters argued that the project has been in the works for 10 years and before Town Meeting 11 times. They said that should the project be turned down, it could cost more down the road.

However, committee members remained concerned about the overall cost of the project, especially when compared to other town needs such as the Department of Public Works or emergency services.

“I’m not hearing anything that would change my vote,” said committee Chair Michael Barretti, who voted against the project the first time.

The committee voted 5-3 to not recommend the library project, which is Article 1, with Blumberg, Melanie Board, Andrew Bradley, Shaffert and Barretti recommending defeat of the article. Walter Leslie, Thomas Dolan Jr. and Gene McMahon voted against the defeat.

Article 2, the zoning amendment connected to the project, was placed on hold; the committee will take a vote on the floor at the Special Town Meeting.

The other three articles – a change to the agreement on the parcel at 0 Ruggles Street; a transfer from free cash of $30,000 to replenish the election fund; and a transfer from free cash of $224,199 for opioid abuse prevention and treatment programs – passed by 8-0-0 margins.

Special Town Meeting will convene on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 9 a.m. at Westborough High School’s auditorium.