It is not true. The reimbursement formula is higher for a two-town than a one-town proposal, but nowhere near 75 percent. The Hingham proposal would cost $26.2 million. The current grant is about 35 percent of eligible costs. For a two-town proposal costing $30 million (and a brand-new, two-town Library would cost much more than that -- see below), the grant percentage would be about 54 percent. That’s more than a one-town grant, to be sure; even so, there are strong arguments against the two-town idea.
First, under state rules, a Library for two towns would have to be substantially larger than for just one, because of the combined populations (23,000 in Hingham, 10,500 in Hull). Careful analysis, which follows a state template required by the Commissioners, shows that a bigger Library would not fit on the 66 Leavitt Street site. Indeed, with setback rules, on-site septic and expanded parking, the current project barely fits there. There is no other suitable, available town-owned land in Hingham for a bigger building -- the grant rules required us to investigate that question, too. That means either that land would have to be purchased on the high-flying private market, or the Library would have to be built on a site in Hull. The first option would be fantastically more expensive, and the second would require the people of Hingham to drive to Hull to visit the Library. We don’t think they would want to do that.
Second, creating a new regional Library would mean abolishing the Hingham Public Library as it has existed for 146 years, and repealing the state law that established a public corporation and local board of trustees “for the purpose of maintaining a public Library in Hingham.” The ownership, control, and funding of the Library would be shared by two towns. The grant rules provide that if the facility is not maintained as a Library for twenty years, the state’s money must be given back in full. That means that if either town dropped out of the arrangement, or radically cut its financial support, the other town would be left holding the bag.
Third, regionalization is a desirable goal, but libraries are already the most regionalized of local services. Hingham and Hull are part of the Old Colony Library Network, a consortium of 29 public and three academic libraries, in which residents of all the towns have free access to borrowing and other privileges in all member libraries, using a common catalog. We freely share services and events, too. Building a two-town Library would increase construction costs, scrap an established management system that has given us the fine Library we have, and give away local control --- for no added benefits in regionalization.