Going into Tuesday's special town meeting and a crucial vote on the future of the Edgartown Free Public Library, the library trustees had two outstanding items on their wish list: strong backing from town leaders for their plan and a signed agreement with the owner of the Captain Warren House property. This week they got both.
In a show of support for the project, the Edgartown financial advisory committee voted 4-2 on Wednesday in favor of the town borrowing $3.5 million to purchase the adjacent Captain Warren House. The acquisition would clear the way for the library trustees to move ahead with plans to enlarge the current facility on North Water street.
"Along with the support of the selectmen and planning board, we're very pleased that the finance committee is now behind us," said Tony Bongiorno of the library planning committee. "We hope town voters will see that we have done our homework."
In another major development, the library board received a signed purchase and sales agreement from Burke Ross, the owner of the Warren House property. After weeks of negotiations, Mr. Ross submitted the agreement on Wednesday, prompting an emergency meeting of the board of trustees on Thursday morning. The agreement was signed by the board and delivered to Mr. Ross's real estate broker, Gerret Conover, at noon yesterday.
"We're absolutely thrilled that it's signed," Mr. Bongiorno said. "Now we can focus on presenting our plan to the town."
Voters will decide the next step for the library on Tuesday at a 7:30 p.m. special town meeting at the Edgartown School, choosing whether or not to authorize the $3.5 million appropriation for the property. If the expenditure is approved, the Proposition 2 1/2 override vote will go to the polls in a general election on Sept. 2.
"It's important that the town knows that all we are asking for is the money to buy the Captain Warren House and property from Mr. Ross," Mr. Bongiorno said. "The rest of the costs for the current plan would be secured by the board."
Capital planning committee chairman Morton Fearey said this week the town is actually engaged in a survey of Edgartown's long-term capital needs and couldn't comment on how the library expansion fits into the larger planning picture, but said the $3.5 million loan would not significantly affect Edgartown's debt service, keeping it under 15 per cent of town spending.
"The debt isn't too significant and given Edgartown's extremely good credit rating, I don't see it as a problem," he said, "but it's still a big number."
Mr. Fearey also said the library expansion is a project the town should seriously consider. "There is no question in my mind that the library is due for expenditures," he said.
The question of purchasing the Captain Warren House is one article among 10 to be taken up by voters on Tuesday. Other warrant articles involve the raising and appropriation of funds for the town hall repair account, a planning board clerk for the remainder of this fiscal year, interest payments on temporary loans, funds for inspecting propane tanks and for various unpaid bills.
The last articles call for a formal objection to certain provisions of the Patriot Act and, taking that further, requires that selectmen be notified first if state or federal agents are asked to assist town employees for reasons found within the provisions of the Patriot Act.