SHOREHAM — Town meeting in Shoreham brought some kind tidings to boosters of the Platt Memorial Library.
In a rather spontaneous showing of generosity, townspeople at their annual gathering agreed to transfer $90,000 in Newton Academy fire insurance money to an expansion/renovation plan for the library that has set on the Shoreham green for more than 100 years.
That action, supported by voice vote, could allow for construction on the 1,600-square-foot addition to begin as soon as this fall, according to library trustees.
“Based on the cost estimates we are working from, we believe we can break ground this year,” said Shannon Bohler-Small, vice chairwoman of the Platt Memorial Library board. “We have our fingers crossed.”
It was more than a decade ago that library boosters began seeking grants and donations to renovate and more than double the size of the Platt, erected in the village back in 1906. Organizers had hoped to complete the project back in 2006 in time for the library’s 100th birthday, but the ambitious goal of $675,000 (at the time) proved elusive. Bohler-Small explained trustees did some paring and cut the goal to around $425,000. Thanks to some diligent fund-raising with some novel events — including a “risqué” calendar featuring community members in various states of undress — library boosters found themselves a little more than three-quarters of the way to their goal at the beginning of this year.
Still, that left well over $100,000 to raise to reach the finish line, and Platt supporters were prepared to slog through another year of fund-raising.
That changed at last Monday night’s town meeting, however.
The selectboard had recommended transferring $234,500 in Newton Academy fire insurance money into a municipal fund for construction of new town offices. Past supporters of a Newton Academy reconstruction offered a motion to divert $90,000 of the insurance money to the library project.
Resident Sue MacIntire said she and other supporters of the former Newton Academy building — which burned last April 7 following a lightening strike — believed the town was closer to completing a library project than building new town offices. With that in mind, it made more sense to try and push the library project closer to fruition. Supporters of Newton Academy had already given the library $12,500 left over from past academy fund-raisers.
“I thought, ‘We might as well get something done,’” MacIntire said. “The longer we postpone doing the library, the higher construction costs are going to go. I just said, ‘Give them what it takes to finish it.’”
Some residents at town meeting voiced concern about using the money for a purpose other than municipal offices, but the motion carried by a voice vote.
“It was town meeting at its best,” Bohler-Small said.
Library trustees said the $90,000, coupled with an anticipated $50,000 Americans with Disabilities Act grant, should cap the donation drive.
The new addition will be built on the back of the library building, thus preserving the structure’s distinct brick façade. The addition will provide much-needed extra space for meetings, more bookshelves, computer stations, storage, a circulation desk and more area for the organization’s many volunteers to carry out their functions, Bohler-Small said.
Judy Stevens had just joined the Platt Memorial Library board 10 years ago when fund-raising began in earnest. She eventually left the board, but stayed involved with the library as a member of a booster committee. She rejoined the board last week and has now seen the fund drive come full circle.
“It has been a lot of work, but we have kept our eyes on the prize,” Stevens said. “It’s exciting; we are all thrilled.”
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.