Peterborough voters pack the Town House Wednesday to say yes to library project

  • William Pickford of Peterborough, holding his 15-month-old daughter Theresa, stands in line for a ballot at Peterborough’s Town Meeting open session Wednesday night at the Town House. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • “No pressure,” Peterborough Library Director Library Director Corinne Chronopoulos says with a laugh as she took to the podium Wednesday night to present a proposed $8.5 million library renovation project to Town Meeting voters. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce

  • Peterborough Selectwoman Barbara Miller speaks in favor of a proposed library renovation project at Town Meeting Wednesday night. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • Due to the size of the crowd the Peterborough Town Meeting started about 45 minutes late Wednesday night. The majority of the crowd cleared out after casting a ballot for the library renovation project, which was approved overwhelmingly by voters. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • Peterborough voters said yes to spending $8.5 million for a library renovation project at the Town Meeting open session at the Peterborough Town House Wednesday night. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • Christopher Maidment of Peterborough speaks against a $3 million bond to partially fund an $8.5 million library renovation project at Peterborough Town Meeting Wednesday night. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • Malcolm Graham, 14, of Peterborough says he doesn't’t want to be paying taxes on the proposed $8.5 million library renovation as an adult at the Peterborough town Meeting Wednesday night. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • Peterborough Town Meeting voters overwhelmingly vote to begin ballot voting on a proposed $8.5 million library renovation project at Peterborough Town Meeting Wednesday night. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • Peterborough voter Kathleen Allen stands alone against a hand vote to begin ballot voting on a proposed library renovation project at Peterborough Town Meeting Wednesday night. Steven Graves, who moved the question, stands next to her. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • Jo Anne Carr of Peterborough says she has serious concerns about Peterborough’s spending habits at Town Meeting Wednesday night. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

  • Peterborough Town Meeting voters approved spending up to $3 million for an $8.5 million library renovation project in the Town House Wednesday night. Staff Photo By Meghan Pierce—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, May 10, 2018 1:45AM

Peterborough voters turned out in big numbers to the open session of Town Meeting Wednesday night and overwhelmingly approved a bond of up to $3 million to help fund a proposed $8.5 million renovation of the Peterborough Town Library.

More than 600 of the town’s 5,513 registered voters turned out to vote on the bond article passing it by 80 percent of the vote, 502 to 126. Bond articles require a two-thirds majority vote to pass. A total of 649 registered voters attended Town Meeting Wednesday night. 

Selectwoman Barbara Miller introduced the bond article saying it would leverage private funds for a new state-of-the-art library building, but would also save the town money in the long run on costly building repairs. 

"When the benefits outweigh the costs of a project then the investment is a good choice," Miller said."The current library is in dire need, dire need, of renovations. ... The estimate for renovations was in excess of $3 million. It makes very logical sense to leverage our $3 million investment and capitalize on a public-private partnership, which would bring in another, would bring in $5.5 million dollars of private money. This would enable us not only to preserve the original 1833 historic library, but also build a new addition."

Miller said 65 percent of the library project costs would be paid for through private funds, not tax payers funds. 

"We also believe the library will be an economic driver and that it’s vital to the continued growth and sustainability for the town," Miller said. 

The $3 million bond is expected to have a 34 cent per $1,000 of valuation impact on the tax rate for the life of the 20-year bond, according to Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett. 

While the majority of voters spoke in favor of the $3 million bond, many voters spoke out against the bond saying that while they would like a renovated and expanded library they cannot afford higher taxes. 

“I think a new library would be a fantastic thing,” Kathleen Allen said. “I am concerned about the tax structure, what it’s going to do to for those on low income, and seniors who are on average on $17,000 (annually).”

Allen added that plans for the new library sound more like a childcare center and a place for teens to hang out.

Hope Taylor said, she is not against the new library, but said she went to the Town House Wednesday morning to find out about the tax impact of all of the proposed spending and learned that on a $200,000 home it would be an increase of $520. She also chided town officials for not having a break down of tax impacts available to voters. 

“You’re telling us what the library will cost us if it passes, but there’s a lot of spending going on,” Taylor said. “I just feel it needs to be put off for a little bit or done for maybe $5 million instead of $8 million cause it’s tough on taxpayers.”

Bartlett said it’s tough to estimate the cost of the tax impact of the proposed bonds saying it depends on the interest rate of the bond and the length of the bond. He also said the town is going through a town-wide evaluation this summer so assessed values of properties will change. 

“If you consider a $250,000 home as the average price in Peterborough you’re looking at approximately a $600 per year increase if everything’s passed and our  assumptions are reasonable. I can certainly guarantee that that number will not be the exact number when we get to Nov. to set the tax rates. And that’s if everything that we are considering is passed, interest rate is 3.5 percent and bonds lengths typically at 20 years,” Bartlett said to Taylor. 

After casting their ballots on the library renovation, the majority of Town Meeting voters cleared out of what had been standing room only meeting during the library renovation discussion.

Voters also said yes to funding 20 percent, or $1.19 million, of the planned $6 million Main Street Bridge reconstruction project. State and federal aid is paying for the majority of the project. The bond article won with 95 percent of the vote, 270 to 14.

After the bridge project was approved, voters rescinded a 2016 vote that had approved funding for the Main Street Bridge project.

A bond article asking voters to spend $300,000 for a renovation of the Transcript Dam also passed big with 89 percent of the vote, 232 to 29.

The one spending article voters rejected was a request to spend $460,000 to bury the utility wires in the area of the Main Street Bridge and library while those projects were taking place. This bond article failed 151 to 148.

In a show of cards voters approved a $4,280,110 reconstruction and improvement project of Route 202. Selectwoman Barbara Miller said the project is entirely being funded by the state and federal government and therefore would have no impact on the town tax rate.

Voters approved, by a show of cards, spending $200,000 for the development of a conceptual design and preliminary cost estimate of a proposed Department of Public Works facility on Water Street adjacent to the town wastewater treatment plant.

Voters also authorized $236,035 for the establishment of a Capital Reserve Fund to pay for the orderly repairs and upgrades to the town’s roadways.

At the end of the night voters, by a show of cards, rescinded the Ambulance Operating Fund and replaced it with the Ambulance Revolving Fund and funding it with $750,000.  

Meghan Pierce can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 224 or mpierce@ledgertranscript.com.