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Town Meeting approves bid for voter approval of library project

Reading Town Meeting members Monday authorized plans to seek townwide voter approval for a temporary tax increase to cover the cost of renovating the local library.

If the ballot question passes in April, Reading’s 31,000-square-foot library would be renovated and a 7,596-square-foot addition would be constructed. The library Board of Trustees is committed to preserving the character of the 19th-century building while enhancing its accessibility and functionality.

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The $14.9 million project has been in the works for years. In 2010, Town Meeting authorized the library trustees to apply for a state grant for construction.

The town’s grant application was approved in October, when the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners awarded $5.1 million to help fund the renovation work and two-story addition. The grant award is contingent upon the town’s securing funding for its share of the project by June 2013.  

 The April 2 ballot will include a question seeking approval of a debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, that would last only as long as it takes to pay off the debt. If approved, the tax hike would add about $150 per year for 10 years to the property tax bill for the owner of the average single-family home in Reading, assessed at $432,271 this fiscal year, Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner said.

According to background information provided to Town Meeting members in advance of Monday’s Special Town Meeting, the library project would address several structural and systemic issues. The existing library, which was home to the old Highland School, was converted to library use in 1984. Its wooden floors cannot withstand the typical library load, its aging roof leaks, and the electrical system is in need of updating to support laptop use, essential lighting, and other modern equipment.

In accordance with state requirements, the design plans for the library include enough space to serve the community for at least 20 years.

Brenda J. Buote may be reached at
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