RICHMOND — A plan to build a new Umberhine Public Library is moving forward, but will not go before voters for their approval.

Selectmen voted 4–1 last week to build the library. Because it will be built with funds donated privately, not by tax dollars, there’s no need to bring the long-discussed project to voters either at a town meeting or referendum, selectmen said.

“We’ve discussed this library a long time,” Selectwoman Rose Beckwith said. “I’d like to see us proceed with construction. We’ve had public hearings, and the majority of people wanted us to get started.”

In a nonbinding straw poll at a selectmen’s meeting in late March, an overwhelming majority of the roughly 40 people in attendance indicated they wanted the town to build the library. They favored a plan put together by resident Steve Musica, which he says can get a library built, mostly by local contractors, for less than the approximately $247,000 available.

The money was turned over to the town by the library’s former trustees. It came from private donations given to build a library, as well as grant funds given by foundations, also to build a library.

Town Manager Marian Anderson said some of the contributors keep asking whether the library has been built, adding that they would want the money back if it is not going to be used to build a library.

Some residents have argued previously that building the library should go to residents for a vote.

Selectman Peter Warner, the lone dissenting vote against proceeding with building the library, said he supports the construction of a library but fears if it is built without seeking voter approval, it could cause hard feelings in town for years.

“I’d hate to see us get into 20 years of struggle because we made a choice to go ahead, on our own,” Warner said of building a replacement for the old library, which was torn down two years ago because it was moldy and in disrepair. “I don’t think there is a legal requirement we need to (have a vote by residents), but it might be in our best interest.”

Selectman Gary Poulin said a Town Meeting vote in April in favor of the library’s $31,000 budget is an indication the library is something townspeople want.

Voters previously have indicated support for a new library. At the 2008 Town Meeting, residents voted to borrow $300,000 to help fund construction of a new library, but only if library supporters were able to raise an additional $700,000 to pay for what was, at the time, a proposal to build a $1.3 million library. That goal was never met.

Now that selectmen have approved Musica’s much more modest library proposal, the next step is to seek Planning Board approval and permits for the project.

Musica said he hopes the proposal will go before the Planning Board within a month, which could allow construction to start this year.

The library now operates in leased space at 164 Main St. The proposed 50-by-60-foot single-story library would be built on the spot where the previous library was, at 86 Main St.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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