By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — SALISBURY — At a public forum last night, town officials pointed to the small size and limited resources of the Salisbury Public Library when calling on voters to pass a proposal at the polls Tuesday to build a brand-new, larger facility.
The current public library on Salisbury Green is only 3,000 square feet, with every inch used, library trustee Joe Stucker said. The building is not handicapped-accessible, offers little technology and has no young adult section, he added, and its shelves are so full that a new book can’t be purchased without an existing book being tossed out.
The building was deemed too small in 1979, Stucker added.
The new library, which would also be built on Salisbury Green, would be an energy-efficient, 17,000-square-foot, two-story building.While its cost would amount to $7,452,330, taxpayers would only pay for 43 percent of it.
The size coincides with a 20-year projection of Salisbury’s expected growth and nationally accepted library standards. But the facility would be more than a traditional library, Stucker said. Like other libraries of the modern age, it wouldn’t just loan books — it will become “the center of culture” for townspeople, where it will “circulate information” of every kind, through traditional and new technologies.
To pay for the project, a fundraising effort will raise $400,000 in contributions, and taxpayers would have to raise $3.2 million. The rest would come from a state grant for $3,856,187, paying for 52 percent of the total.
But the grant only comes into play if voters approve the project by June 30. Without approval, the town could wait years before state money is available again.
On Tuesday, voters will approve or reject the debt exclusion question, the first of a two-part process needed to issue bonds for Salisbury’s share. If the question is approved, the new library would add $40 to $50 a year to the average residential tax bill for about five years, according to Town Manager Neil Harrington, which works out to 1.2 percent.
If passed at the polls, the second part of the process comes at spring Town Meeting on May 20, when voters will be asked to approve a warrant question so the town can borrow the $3.2 million through a bond issuance.
The bonds for the project would have a 20-year term, but after the first five years, the rest of the repayment will be absorbed into Salisbury’s annual budget, Harrington said.
That’s possible because two of the town’s current fixed debt payments — the landfill and employee pension funding — will expire by that time.
More services, more hours, more equipment
With approval, the library would extend its hours, going from today’s 32-hours-a-week, Monday through Thursday schedule, to 46 hours a week, open six days, with extended evening hours twice a week and half a day on Saturday.
The library costs taxpayers $192,000, or 1 percent of the town’s operating budget today. The new building would add about $150,000 in additional employees and energy costs, but that’s still under 2 percent of the town’s overall budget. And in three years, when the project’s completed, Harrington believes the town’s revenues will grow and be able to handle those costs.
Additional space means double the capacity for books, CDs and DVDs, said library Director Terry Kyrios, and 16 instead of only three of one of the library’s most popular offerings — computers.
Interior plans show three rooms for tutoring or study groups, a dedicated young adult section, as well as a children’s room, multiple reading areas, a meeting room for community events, a special genealogical/historical research section, increased WiFi access, handicap accessibility, including restrooms on both floors, and double the amount of parking.
Long time coming
This is no a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants production, Harrington said. It’s been researched for about eight years, beginning with surveys of residents to learn what they want in their library. And Town Meeting has supported efforts to improve its library more than once.
In June 2007, the library was awarded $20,000 in planning and design funds from the state Board of Library Commissioners, with Town Meeting approving another $20,000 for the process. On May 17, 2010, Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved the design for the new library, as well as approving applying for the construction grant from the state, which was ultimately won.