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March 31, 2011

Bangor Daily News

Library volunteers fighting against bottle bill changes

STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine — Over the last 10 years, a nonstop bottle drive for the Stockton Springs Community Library has generated $56,000, enough money to keep the volunteer-run program well-supplied with books.

If major changes are made to Maine’s 35-year-old bottle bill, that income stream could slow to a trickle — but a group of library lovers here is gearing up for a fight to keep the law, and their book supply, intact.

“That would be a hurt,” library board trustee Janice Capano said of proposed changes to the law. “We have a wonderful collection for a very small library. But that will cease.”

To keep that from happening, people in Stockton Springs are taking action. They have written to Gov. Paul LePage, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, state Sen. Mike Thibodeau and Rep. James Gillway. A petition against the changes has garnered 43 signatures and counting over the two weeks that it has been at the library.

Capano, library co-director Pat Curley and others in town want to keep on gathering signatures, and generating more attention for the proposed changes, in order to keep the library’s unique revenue source alive.

The bottle drive idea came from volunteer and former millworker Basil Staples, 75, who helped found the library in 2001. He recalled how successful a similar project was at the former Champion paper mill in Bucksport and thought it would be worth trying in Stockton Springs.

The idea worked, and now a brightly painted cart is parked in front of the library’s home in the historic Colcord House all year round. The sign on the cart states “Returnables for Reading.”

“It’s really a great thing,” Staples said Friday, adding that the town does not have a redemption center and so residents would otherwise have to travel to take care of their cans and bottles. “It’s kind of a community-type project. It helps them, and it’s also a great cause.”

Staples said he is worried about the proposed changes to the Bottle Bill.

“It could pickle the whole thing,” he said. “It’s taking away from what we’re trying to do.”

The town of Stockton Springs pays to heat the building, but the rest of the library’s budget comes from the bottle drive, Curley said. Thanks to all those nickels and dimes, the building is fully stocked with up-to-the-minute books, magazines, DVDs and periodicals.

The volunteers who work there keep it open four days a week, and more and more community members have been taking advantage of the books and free Internet service that the library has to offer, she said.

“People know we’re here now. We’re getting a lot more visitors than we used to,” she said, adding that certain proposed changes to the bottle bill “would be devastating to this library.”


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