Sandwich Public Library Director Joanne L. Lamothe got the news yesterday morning that she was hoping for: the state Board of Library Commissioners did not choose to fund Sandwich’s plans to build a new library in the southern reaches of town.
Instead, Sandwich was placed on a funding waiting list—11th of 15 towns.
Ms. Lamothe could not be happier with the news.
There were three possible outcomes for the grant application that the library’s board of trustees submitted to the state earlier this year. The state could have approved it and awarded the funds immediately. Ms. Lamothe said under this scenario, the town would have had six months to secure the funding to cover 50 percent of the construction costs not covered by the grant. If the funding could not be approved, the town would have lost the grant altogether. The estimated cost of the two-story, 42,000-square-foot-building comes in at $15 million, with the town responsible for half of that, or $7.5 million.
Another scenario, Ms. Lamothe said, is that the state could have rejected the grant application altogether.
The third option, the one she and members of the board of trustees were hoping for is that the town would be awarded the grant but placed on a waiting list.
Ms. Lamothe estimated that with 10 other towns ahead of Sandwich on that list as well as eight towns that are slated to receive the grant awards immediately, it could take several years before Sandwich is moved to the top of the list.
“This buys us some time. It’s a good scenario because it keeps [the hope] alive. If we had been awarded the grant today, we would only have six months to sell the voters on the idea of a new library and to raise the funds,” she said.
Chairman of the library’s board of trustees Mark A. Wiklund agrees. “I think this is great news. There are so many towns ahead of us on the waiting list, this gives us some breathing room and we can use that time to engage people in the community,” he said.
Ms. Lamothe said receiving this nod from the state also validates all of the hard work that was put into this grant application. “We are pleased that we were put on the waiting list. It speaks to the strength of our designs and that they were well-received by the state,” she said.
Selectman Linell M. Grundman called the news about this grant award, “excellent.”
“It seems like a very good place to be,” she said.
Ms. Grundman had cast the sole vote in favor of putting an article on the warrant at this year’s Annual Town Meeting asking voters to accept funds from the state if awarded. She explained that while she does not support spending the money to build a new library right now, she voted to put the question on the warrant at the May Town Meeting “out of respect for the work that had been done with the architectural plans and out of respect for the funding that had been raised to pay for those plans,” she said.
She said she is pleased that Sandwich is still in the running for the grant money and hopes that when it is awarded, the timing will be right.
Ms. Grundman said right now there is no appetite for a debt exclusion to build a new library. But, she said, depending on how long it takes for Sandwich to move up on the state’s waiting list, the town may be in a better financial position in the future.
“Right now, there is no political will for a new library and it is not on the priority list of needs. But we may have the ability to add it to the priority list [a few more years from now,]” she said.
Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Frank Pannorfi, however, did not share Ms. Grundman’s optimism about the town’s future financial position.
“Unless we find some major benefactor willing to subsidize [the construction costs], I don’t see a new library in the near future. There are so many things going on, for instance, a public safety facility that will have to be funded in three years. It would be difficult to sell the community on both of these projects,” he said.
Mr. Pannorfi questioned whether building a new library was more important than a new council on aging center, especially given the future projections of the town’s demographics in a few years.
“We should do everything that we possibly can to preserve the current library and think about ways for maximizing that space,” he said.
Mr. Wiklund said the library board of trustees will be meeting on Tuesday night for its regularly scheduled meeting. He said the board will discuss a more collaborative approach for moving forward with this project.
“I feel very strongly that 100 years from now we will have a new library. It’s just a question of when and how we get that,” he said.