Narragansett voters want a new library and they’re willing to pay for it.
By a nearly 2-1 margin, voters approved local ballot question 8 Tuesday night, authorizing the town to spend $5.8 million to move Maury Loontjens Memorial Library to the former Belmont Market space in Pier Marketplace.
As Library Board of Trustees Chairwoman Laurie Kelly applauded the bond question passing 4,513-2,173, with mail-in and absentee ballots yet to be counted, she acknowledged that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on the project.
“It’s really wonderful. We’ve worked really hard on this for eight years, so it’s very gratifying that the people of Narragansett have overwhelmingly supported us.”
The bond question allows the town of Narragansett to issue up to $5.8 million in bonds and notes for the library.
“The next step is there’s a lot of hard work to be done,” Kelly said. “We hope to purchase the Belmont building from Gilbane. We don’t have an architect, we don’t have a lot of the stuff that comes with building a building, and all that’s got to start tomorrow morning first thing.”
Working with the new town council is another priority, and while Kelly says that having different elected officials in office can be a “monkey wrench” to the progress already made, she believes the newly elected council looks like a good one.
“Murray was the councilman that had voted against the library, but we had no problem with him, he was very fiscally responsible in looking at the numbers side of it,” she said, referring to Patrick Murray, who won re-election. She also noted that the candidates had expressed support for the library during various candidate forums.
During a Nov. 1 candidate forum, Town Council members Matthew Mannix and Susan Cicilline Buonanno, and candidates Jill Lawler and Michael Moretti all expressed their support for the library bond during a lightning round of questions. When asked about it in-depth at the same forum, Mannix noted the “strong work” that had been done on the project, while Moretti said the library would be an asset to the town. Murray noted he had voted against the bond in April, citing the unfunded liabilities and poor conditions of the town roads as bigger priorities for Narragansett.
Since the library would be applying for state money, a list of architects that have had experience in building libraries and are recommended by the state Department of Library Administration and Services will be contacted by the Board of Trustees to see their vision for the project.
“It’s pretty exciting because I really think this is going to move the town forward, at the base of the town, and I’m excited about this work coming up, but it’s going to be a lot of work to get all our ducks in a row,” Kelly said.
Voters in Narragansett agreed.
“I think it’s a good thing for the community, I think it’s a good thing for everybody,” Francisco Sanchez, who voted at Narragansett Pier Middle School, said.
“Absolutely… I believe in reading, and I think there’s not enough of it going on,” said Charles Lloyd, a voter who cast his ballot at St. Mary Star of the Sea. “Everybody’s using the digital methods, and I believe in a traditional library to some degree.”
“It’s an investment that I think is important,” added Bonnie Kaplan, who voted at St. Veronica’s Chapel.
“I voted for the library, I use it quite a bit,” said Maurice Mancini who also voted at St. Veronica’s.
“I use the library constantly, and I think it’s a good public resource,” said Marie Courtney, who voted at the Pier Middle School.
Voters from all five polling places approved the library bond. The largest margin of victory for the ballot question was at the Narragansett Pier Middle School, where voters approved the bond 1,102-501, a 37.8 percent difference.