Rockport to send library plans out to bid

By Gabriel Blodgett | Mar 15, 2019
Photo by: Gabriel Blodgett Ann Filley, standing addresses the Rockport Select Board regarding the plans for the new library March 14.

Rockport — The Rockport Select Board voted March 14 to send the plans for the new library and the corresponding changes to parking and traffic flow out to bid by March 22.

The unanimous vote came despite reservations from several of the members following a public hearing at the Rockport Opera House Thursday night.

The reservations stemmed from several fast-approaching deadlines, which, according to board member Debra Hall, the board only became aware of in the budget discussions last month. Several board members stressed the importance of transparency and public input in the parking changes, but it was unclear whether there would be enough time for potential changes to the current parking proposal of 14 perpendicular spots on Limerock Street on the north side of Memorial Park.

The package being sent out to bid will include the architectural drawings for the building and the intersection, and the civil engineering drawings for the proposed parking changes and any site work required around the building.

Once the package is distributed, contractors will have until April 18 to return their bids to the town. Select Board Chair Ken McKinley said that in order for the project to be funded before the end of the Maine Bond Bank's spring bond issue and receive the allotted $66,000, the town must have a bid in and opened by April 22. Charles Frattini, general contracting manager of Phi Builders and Architects, who has been advising the town throughout the process, stressed the importance of these two deadlines. "Stopping the bid now would be a costly maneuver."

Board member Jeffrey Hamilton asked whether it would be possible to send out the bid with the most minimal parking plan and change it in accordance with the public input, to which Bettina Doulton, owner of Phi, responded that it is much easier to scale down a project through a change order than scale it up once the project has been bid on. There is also the fact that no other official drawings for parking alternatives exist.

Several members of the board were concerned that sending the drawings out to bid might give the appearance of pushing the proposal through without adequate input from the town. Hamilton asked whether there would be enough time to change plans, if through public comment or a June vote, residents decided on a different parking option. Frattini responded that it would not be ideal, but the contractor would not be working on the parking by June, and such an amendment would be better than pushing the entire project back.

"The lesser of the two evils is going out to bid March 22," Frattini said.

In addition, in order to have a June vote on parking alternatives, all the options must be finalized by April 12, when the ballots are sent out for printing. In the public comment section of the meeting, Rockport resident Burke Munger expressed concern about the possibility of having the public discuss and vote on alternative plans less developed than the one currently in place.

Munger also asked whether the town had the time and money to get these plans. McKinley responded that the board was committed to getting alternative plans in place for public discussion and vote. Board member Mark Kelley, however, made it clear that the board is finally responsible for the decision, and although members will listen to the public's input, they are "the deciders." McKinley added that because a potential June vote would not affect residents' tax burden, it would be strictly advisory.

When asked earlier in the evening about potential alternatives, Will Gartley of Gartley & Dorsky Engineering & Surveying, the firm responsible for the civil engineering drawings, said they were already pushing to have the current plan done on time, and it would be impossible to change course now.

The public comment period featured several speakers eager to move forward with the plan. Ann Filley, representing the library committee, reminded those present that the space currently occupied by Memorial Park was given to the town by Mary Louise Bok for the benefit of the library, and it should be used as such. Helen Shaw, a member of the Library and Budget Committees, denounced questions about the process, saying that the public had had plenty of opportunities to view and comment on plans.

Joan Welsh, co-chair of the Library Foundation, said that while she was not in favor of any one parking plan over another, it was important to move forward in a timely manner for the sake of summer fundraising, adding, "Controversy is not good for a capital campaign."

Several members of the community also spoke out against the proposed plan. Resident Ames Curtis commented that with the aging population in the area, 14 parking spots, of which only two would be handicap-designated, would be insufficient.

Deniz Ovecoglu, a new resident of Rockport who lives on Huse Street, said he was concerned about starting a project with a change order in mind, adding that the town would never get its money back if it chose to scale down the project. He was also unhappy with the proposed changes to the intersection and traffic flow, noting that had these changes been disclosed when he was buying his a house for his family, which includes four children, he would not have done so.

The Select Board will meet again March 25 and again the next week to hear public input on parking alternatives.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Marti Stone | Mar 16, 2019 08:07

Comment by Ames Curtis - I want to be very clear that I have been a consistent RES supporter for a new Rockport Public Library and believe the unilateral decision by the Select Board to choose 1 Limerock was a huge mistake.  If the library were at RES, there could easily be 30 accessible flat parking spaces and 5 handicapped spaces for the library plus there would be no loss of green space in Veterans Memorial Park, not to mention less traffic and noise in the downtown where parking is at a premium.  The Select Board also failed to contact Bok heirs, all of whom had been identified, to potentially relieve the obligation to build a library on the former site.  Plus they did not act to demolish the old library building at the time it was condemned by the engineering study but instead left it as a symbol to influence voters, ultimately paying almost double to tear it down.  A group of residents primarily from the inner village and calling themselves Friends of Rockport, heavily influenced decisions by the Select Board and the public by paying for signs and other materials to highlight a new library at 1 Limerock Street until the campaign was taken over by the fund-raising committee/Foundation.  Rumors were also circulated that the Select Board would not fund any library if the proposal for the current site did not pass in November, and many RES supporters changed their vote with this in mind. Finally large posters in the town office and around town as well as the town website showed the proposed new library building as well as the overall site plan to include parking, reconstruction of the intersection, and changes to Veterans Memorial Park;  and this entire package is what voters thought they were voting for in supporting the 1.5 million dollar bond.  The margin of the YES vote was relatively small despite all this propaganda.  Now that the new Rockport Public Library is to be built at 1 Limerock, we are between a rock and a hard place as  sufficient safe parking must be available to patrons along with easy access to the library entrance for young parents, the aging population and those with mobility issues.  As a member of the Parks Committee and a forward-thinking resident, I grieve for the loss of green space in Veterans Memorial Park; and I deeply regret and resent the decisions by the Select Board to locate a new Rockport Public Lbrary at the former site on 1 Limerock Street.

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