Farmingdale town officials will continue paying for the town’s residents to have access to area libraries, but the Gardiner Public Library no longer will be on that list.

After three years of a paying a fee to Gardiner so its residents could use the Gardiner library, Farmingdale selectmen are pulling the plug.

However, the selectmen will continue to reimburse Farmingdale families for the cost of a membership at other libraries, such as those in Augusta and Hallowell.

“We were able to offer our residents the choice of multiple libraries,” said Jim Grant, chairman of Farmingdale’s Board of Selectmen.

Libraries in some cities and towns charge a fee per card to people who are not taxpayers in the community where the library is located.

Like many small Maine towns, Farmingdale doesn’t have its own library. Instead, it has a policy of reimbursing residents for what it terms a single membership to a library. Grant said a family could to join Lithgow Public Library in Augusta and take the receipt to the Town Office for reimbursement. That family could buy a card from a second library, but Farmingdale will not pay for a second membership,

Gardiner has a different arrangement. Rather than selling individual cards, it charges a fee to partner towns for their residents to use the library and its services. It imposes no restrictions on the number of cards issued to residents in West Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and Litchfield. Each of those towns pays a different amount. Gardiner has asked Randolph to pay $14,773; Litchfield, $20,586; Pittston, $23,292; and West Gardiner, $34,404 in West Gardiner, and they get the same access to the library’s services and collections as Gardiner residents. The fees reflect the cost of running the library, and they are based on the population that’s served.

Farmingdale had been partner town more than a decade ago, but it opted out of the arrangement.

Anne Davis, director of the Gardiner Public Library and interim Gardiner City Manager, said for the last three years, Farmington has been kicking the tires on becoming a full partner community again.

“They got a discounted fee of $4,500 a year so we could have statistics,” Davis said.

Under that program, 178 adult library cards were issued to Farmingdale residents, as were 16 student cards and 13 children’s cards.

A decade ago, when Farmingdale was a partner community, Davis said participation in Farmingdale went from 652 households identified as having Gardiner cards to 101.

This year, Gardiner set the price for Farmingdale at $10,153 to bring it closer to reflecting the true cost of serving its residents, and that caused Farmingdale officials to reconsider.

When residents voted to pay Gardiner $4,500 three years ago, Grant said, they weren’t required to bring proof of membership to Farmingdale officials because Gardiner issued cards based on the town’s contribution. “This is where we ran into issues,” he said.

Grant said the chief concern is that town residents might be reimbursed for more than one membership. Selectmen asked the Gardiner library for a list of cardholders.

‘They won’t give us any information on who has received cards, The only thing we’re trying to do is keep the standard we set for years that we would provide one membership per family,” he said.

Lithgow charges $60 for a library card to people who do not live or own property in Augusta. Hubbard Free Library in Hallowell charges residents of other communities $40 for a card.

Grant said using a three-year average, Gardiner’s price would be a little more than $150 per family membership.

“As a select board, we have not put the Gardiner library on the warrant for this year. At $151 per membership, that seems a bit expensive to use,” Grant said.

While Gardiner has revived the practice of selling library cards, city elected officials opted to impose a five-year ban on selling cards to residents from communities that have left the regional service.

“It’s too bad they are not going to put it on the (Town Meeting) warrant,” Davis said of Farmingdale’s decision.

While the move means a loss of revenue to Gardiner, Davis said the move is not expected to affect the library’s proposed budget, because she had anticipated that at least one of the towns might not continue as a partner. At just under $400,000, the budget is about 4 percent of Gardiner’s municipal budget. The money pays for collections, books and equipment. The building is owned by the Gardiner Library Association, which also provides money for library expenses.

“There is also the need the be fair the to communities that have voted to stay as partner towns. While they pay their fair share, they are likely supplementing the cost of nonresident cards,” Davis said.

Farmingdale’s Town Meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 17 in the Hall-Dale High School theater.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ