By William F. Zachmann for the Duxbury Clipper
The project to expand the Duxbury Free Library began in the late 1980s under the leadership of Deborah Bornheimer. In the FY 1990 “Report of the Library Long Range Planning Committee”, Debbie wrote: “In 1990 the Library Long-Range Planning Committee completed its work . . . We are pleased with the Master Plan and convinced it provides a prudent blueprint for the restoration and expansion of a major community asset that now suffers from serious inadequacies in infrastructure and services. Notwithstanding the financial constraints facing Duxbury, we think it is important to carry this project forward with public and private support in 1991.”
Article 37 was duly placed on the Warrant of Duxbury’s 1991 Annual Town Meeting to implement that plan. It would have added “two new wings of 7,000 square feet each on the east and west ends of the present structure [that was the Wright building], together with a new children’s wing to the south” noting that a “total of approximately 25,000 square feet of new space would be achieved.” The cost would have been at least $7 million and might have been as much as $10 million.
Inability to fix the cost firmly and other concerns about the project as originally proposed, however, led to a vote indefinitely to postpone Article 37. The vote to IP was not an outright rejection but meant, rather, that the Library Project was to be sent “back to the drawing boards” and could be brought forward again, even at the next Annual Town Meeting.
It did come back two years later, as Article 11 at the Annual Town Meeting of 1993, but in a very different and less expensive form. Instead of a huge expansion adding 25,000 square feet of new construction to the Wright Building, the revised proposal was to refurbish, at the now much lower cost of ‘only’ $5.5 million, the Upper Alden School to serve as the new Duxbury Free Library Building. Like the present proposal for a new combined middle and high school, it required a 2/3 vote of Town Meeting and a majority in favor of the necessary Proposition 2 ½ override in the general election. It got neither.
Duxbury’s 1993 Annual Town Meeting Article 11 failed to get the requisite 2/3 majority with 204 “yes” votes and 160 “no” votes. A motion for reconsideration failed with 109 in favor and 153 against. The ballot article did even worse, with only 477 votes for it and 749 against. Once again, but more decisively this time, the Library Project was sent “back to the drawing boards.”
The Duxbury Free Library came back from the drawing boards, almost exactly fifteen years ago, as Article 1 of a Duxbury Special Town Meeting held on Tuesday, October 15, 1996 and attended by only 272 voters where, finally, the Library Project passed with 269 “yes” votes and only 3 “no” votes. No general election vote was required because this time, the now further revised plan to re-use the Upper Alden School did not require a Proposition 2½ override.
This time it could be squeezed under the Levy Limit. This time the cost of the project was only (no single quotes are required this time) $1.7 million – less than a fifth of the cost of the original (1991) proposal and less than a third of the cost of the $5.5 million plan voters rejected in 1993.