A Compromise on the Library?

At this morning’s library open house, I proposed a compromise on the library. I hope that the library crowd will see the merits of compromise.

The Selectmen have bungled the library-addition warrant article. They were supposed to hold a public hearing at least 15 days before Town Meeting. They didn’t, and it’s too late to do anything about it now.

The Selectmen are proposing to vote on the library addition at Town Meeting on Wednesday, March 14, and, if it gets a 2/3 majority, to then have a public hearing after Town Meeting. They would then call a special Town Meeting in April to vote over again.

The law states clearly that no appropriations may be made at a special Town Meeting unless the total number of ballots cast are at least equal to 1/2 the number of registered voters in town.

The practical effects of this is that there would need to be close to 1,000 yes votes, because anyone opposed to the library addition could simply withhold their ballot.

The Selectmen and the Town Moderator believe, and I believe they are wrong, that they can circumvent the law by voting at the special Town Meeting to “ratify” the vote held at the regular Town Meeting. They argue that the vote at the special Town Meeting would therefore not be an appropriations vote and would therefore not require the nearly 1,000 ballots cast.

This is nonsensical and not logical. If the special Town Meeting vote is not an appropriations vote, then why do they need to have the public hearing at all? The public hearing must occur at least 15 days before the meeting at which the appropriations vote takes place. If the vote at the special Town Meeting is not an appropriations vote, then no hearing is required.

If a special Town Meeting could vote to “ratify” (or to not ratify) a vote at the regular Town Meeting, then a small group of partisans (of any side on any issue), could overturn the will of the regular Town Meeting. That is why, for a special Town Meeting about a money issue, the total number of ballots cast must be at least equal to 1/2 the number of registered voters.

If the selectmen pursue this dubious course, and if a special Town Meeting were to vote to “ratify” the vote at Town Meeting, then I will file a lawsuit against the town seeking an injunction against the Selectmen to prevent them from taking out a loan.

However, there is another way.

At Town Meeting on Wednesday, March 14, let’s amend the current library-addition warrant article to get a scaled-back library addition done this year for around $1 million.

We have roughly $400,000 in the library capital reserve fund, another roughly $350,000 in the library capital donations fund, plus somewhere around $200,000, I believe, in pledges. The exact numbers can be filled in at Town Meeting.

We could also authorize a loan of up to $99,999.99 with a simple majority vote ($100,000 or more requires a 2/3 majority as well as the public hearing that the selectmen forgot to do).

We’d have to make the article contingent on the pledges coming in. I’m sure that everyone who made a pledge will come through. But we wouldn’t be able to start spending money until they did.

The amended article could pass with a simple majority vote. I would vote for it.

This would finally put this issue to rest. It has divided the town for more than a decade, for more years than I have lived here.

It would be a compromise. The library crowd (which seems to be about 325 people in this town of about 2,500) would not get the large building they have dreamed about for 12 years. And I would not get what I want, either — I don’t think we need to spend $1 million on a library addition or major renovation. Sure, we need to fix the septic system. And let’s put in new carpets and new windows.


Published in General, Library
Max Ledoux

Author: Max Ledoux

I've lived in Tuftonboro since 2014. I grew up in Lisbon Falls, Maine (the Moxie capital of the world). I run tuftonboro.net.

11 thoughts on “A Compromise on the Library?”

  1. I do not like your suggestion Max however I understand where you are coming from. Personally other than fixing the septic I do not think another penny should be spent on the library other than normal maintenance. I believe this is how the majority of the folks in town feel. 325 or so library supporters out of 2,500 residents should not get this kind of money because they have a dream. This is a want, not a need IMO.

  2. In fact, Rick, I am in complete agreement with you. We do obviously need to fix the septic. And we could do some other minor things. But other than that, we really don’t need more space.

    I was trying to reach out to the library folks. They don’t seem to be too interested, though.

  3. Max: What qualifies you to be the kingmaker in this situation? I personally think the library expansion should be put on ice until 2019 to avoid more controversy. However, if it proceeds based upon legal advise the town receives I hope you will step aside and let the voters decide at the ballot box whether or not they want the project to go forward. A lawsuit over a procedural technicality will serve no good purpose. Thank you.

  4. Max has the right to do what he see’s fit Mike and if the town moves forward with their current plan then IMO a lawsuit would be warranted. Let’s wait till the town gets additional opinion Monday before you start calling folks names such as kingmaker.

  5. It doesn’t matter whether or not the vote happens at Town Meeting. It has no legal effect.

    If the selectmen call a special Town Meeting at which there is a vote to “ratify” the previous vote, though, then that would be illegal. It would be after that hypothetical situation that I would file a lawsuit.

    I’m not a kingmaker. No one has to listen to me. I’m merely informing the trustees, the selectmen, and the moderator that if they violate the law I will sue them in order to hold them accountable to the law. The law is the law. If they don’t like the law, they can lobby our representatives to change the law. They can’t just ignore the law.

    Failing to hold a public hearing on a bond or note in excess of $100,000 is not a procedural technicality. It is not optional. It is a major error.

    The fact that the selectmen didn’t have the hearing shows that the selectmen do not take seriously their responsibility to spend other people’s money wisely.

    I believe they made a mistake. It was not intentional. But the appropriate response is to acknowledge their mistake and not to brush it aside as a minor technicality.

  6. Chris:

    Well, I won’t speculate on the exact ages, particularly of the ladies, but I was the youngest person by probably 30-40 years. There was the one woman who came in half way through, who is probably around my age. (That was perilously close to guessing a woman’s age.) She was there with her child. I don’t know if she was there specifically for the meeting or just happened to stick her head in because she was already there.

    On average, I would say I am the youngest person at 98% of meetings I go to in town of various boards and committees and other events such as candidates night. At candidates night there was a child, someone’s grandson, probably. Obviously, they brought him with them, he didn’t come on his own. So other than that, I was the youngest. The youngest adult.

    In the 2000 U.S. Census, 22.5% of the town was between the ages of 25-44. That dropped to 18% in the 2010 Census. The 2016 U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate dropped that down further to 17.1%. Meanwhile the over 65 age group went from 22.1% in the year 2000 to 23.7% in 2010, to an estimated 31.6% in 2016.

    The total population was:
    2000 2,148
    2010 2,387
    2016 2,098 (estimated)

  7. Max,
    I am a middle age mother of three.
    My children are 21,13&11, elementary, middle & university students. My main occupation is mother and I work outside the home part time. When my children were younger (under 9)
    they would go to the library (maybe) 2 times a week. Our schools push technology use which makes it easier for students to work from home.
    Through observation the library is visited by the very young and the aging population.
    One thing that keeps coming to mind is the language and extensive reading that it takes to follow the town business. I am an educated mother of three with a less then fair attention span. Max you do a wonderful job of making it convenient to quickly stay in touch.
    It does make me wonder though, if I have trouble keeping up with the important business because of time restraints how does that work for other mothers? How do we get more of the younger – mid rage age involved?
    Information being put out needs to be short and to the point.
    Please keep up your good work!

  8. Rick

    I wasn’t calling anyone names. I felt the term “kingmaker” was applicable. Arguably it wasn’t but it certainly doesn’t carry any negative conatations. As far as age goes, voters in most elections, wherever you happen to be, are typically “mature”. While the library crowd is mature so are the opposition leaders. Pike, McWhirter, Sawyer, Hurt, etc. are all 60-plus years old. The only notable exception in the whole group is Max as he already has noted. I too wish more young folks would get involved in the process but I think that is wishful thinking.

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