Shelburne voters took a big step toward getting a new library by decisively passing a $6.5 million bond on Tuesday to pay for it.
Town Clerk Diana Vachon said the vote was 889-742 in favor of the project. The 1,631 people who cast ballots in the single-item election were 27 percent of the town’s 6,139 registered voters, she said.
That’s a fraction of the 70 percent turnout in Shelburne a year ago for the presidential election, but approaches the typical turnout of about 30 percent for a March Town Meeting Day vote, Vachon said.
Many voters — 723, or 44 percent — opted to mail in ballots or vote early at the town offices; just over 800 voted in person on Tuesday, she said.
The project calls for replacing the cramped Pierson Library with a modern library, renovating the adjacent historic Town Hall, and making improvements to the municipal campus for safety, traffic and access.
Town Manager Joe Colangelo said he was pleased with both the turnout and the nearly 10 percent margin by which the measure won. He credited an extensive public-information campaign by the Library Building Steering Committee, the Library Trustees, Friends of Pierson Library and volunteers for making sure voters understood the project, answering questions and explaining the need for it.
Library Director Kevin Unrath said he counted about two dozen public meetings about the project and at least 30 public events where the library project was on display. “They did an excellent job so that folks knew this was on the ballot,” Unrath said.
On Tuesday evening, the Library Board of Trustees issued a statement, saying it “is delighted that the bond issue funding the new library and Town Center Project passed. We would like to thank everyone in town for their support and are looking forward to the next steps of bringing this dream to a reality. Please watch for announcements as we move ahead. Thank you!”
Unrath said there are many details yet to finalize and library officials hope to continue to engage the public in making these last decisions.
Colangelo said construction is planned to begin in April and will take a full year. The town has hired Neagley & Chase Construction Co. from South Burlington as the construction manager and lead contractor; Vermont Integrated Architecture of Middlebury is the project architect.
In a statement Wednesday morning, the steering committee thanked everyone who has played a role so far.
“We believe that the new library, renovations to the Town Hall, and municipal campus improvements will make Shelburne a better place for generations to come,” the committee said.
An important next step will be to figure out where the library will operate during construction. “That conversation begins tomorrow,” Colangelo said. Unrath said the goal will be to provide as many vital services as possible and library staff will all remain part of the operation.
Fundraising is also key, they agreed. An anonymous donor has offered $50,000 unconditionally and pledged $450,000 more if it is matched by contributions from others.
Unrath said that $15,000 has come in from other sources so far. The aim now will be to match as much of the remaining $435,000 as possible.
“We want to maximize the gift,” Colangelo said.
Without fundraising, bonding for the full $6.5 million would result in an increase in property taxes of about $35 for every $100,000 of property value, project planners calculated. Fundraising will help offset that increase.