In a unanimous vote Dec. 18, the Rockport Select Board decided that Stephen Smith of Camden-based architectural firm Stephen G. Smith and Associates should be responsible for creating the design of the new Rockport Public Library.

Smith was one of six architects who submitted architectural concepts for the previous iteration of the project, which appeared before Rockport voters on the November 2016 ballot. After reviewing the six concepts, the Select Board decided at that time to grant the design permission to Portland-based firm Reed & Co. It was Reed & Co.'s design for a $4 million library at 1 Limerock St., that was voted on and failed at the polls last year.

Following the 2016 vote, the Select Board assumed responsibility for siting the new library and engaging an architect in preparation for a future effort to place a library ballot initiative before voters. Chairman Ken McKinley reported Dec. 12 that Reed & Co. had declined to participate in the design process further.

McKinley and members of the Library Committee, who had been privy to all of the architect interviews, agreed that after Reed, Smith's was the second favorite design, and spoke in favor of offering the design opportunity to him. Selectman Doug Cole, who had also seen Smith's presentation, said Smith had been able to create enthusiasm among audience members with his design.

Before the Monday night meeting, Select Board members reviewed the video interviews of the remaining five candidates, which were recorded nearly two years ago, in order to make their new selection.

In November the board had concluded that the budget for a new Rockport Public Library should not exceed $3 million, and Dec. 12 they voted in favor of keeping 1 Limerock St. as the site of the new facility. Prior to voting, the Select Board heard from several members of the public who expressed concerns over elements of the decision-making process on the project.

"The ultimate goal is to have a June 2018 vote that results in a resounding majority in favor of the library. To follow the same methodology as the last time, which is to pick an architect and have them develop a design and put it to the test at the polls, could well have the same result again … if the library were to pass by just dribbling over the finish line, there could be ongoing bitterness inhospitable to private fundraising," said Rockport architect John Priestley, who was among the architects who previously submitted designs.

Priestley recommended that instead of voting at the meeting to select one architect that members of the Select Board request a new series of proposals from each of the architects in the running. Priestley suggested that the new proposals could be drafted within weeks, and then could be reviewed by the public at a later date for a town-wide vote.

"When the architects presented their designs, the Library Committee chose Reed & Co. was first, but when Steve Smith presented, Smith was the one that got applause and some standing applause — it was a real "wow" design, and he was the second choice," said Rockport resident Sally Cook.

"We need someone who will take direction and be a good team player, and I strongly desire that whoever the [architect] is, that they will be willing to take direction," said Selectman Tom Gray following public comment.

"I agree, it's our project. I don't want to be conceited about it or anything like that, but it's on our shoulders. One of the things that's going to be critically important to me in this process is public input. As we go through the process, there are going to have to be a couple of opportunities for the public to look at what's been done so far by the architect and to weigh in on it," McKinley said.

Cole made a motion that the Select Board authorized Town Manager Rick Bates to negotiate a contract with Stephen Smith and Associates for the design and construction of the Rockport Public Library. The motion was seconded by Selectman Mark Kelley, and unanimously approved by the five selectmen. The next meeting of the Rockport Select Board is Jan. 8.