Library Expansion Project at Standstill
Yes To Our Library supporters met with City Council Monday night, but were not able to move the proposal forward or reach a compromise.
The Woburn Public Library expansion project is at an impasse after City Council members said Monday they could not support the current pricetag.
“In my heart, I want to support this,” said Alderman-at-Large Richard Haggerty. “But we have to make determinations based on what we can afford… At this point in time, I can’t support something like this. But I hope it’s a first step toward finding a common area.”
Much of the City Council agreed with Haggerty, citing the group’s need to be “fiscally responsible.”
“If money were not an object, I think we would all fully endorse it,” said Ward 4 Alderman Michael Anderson. “I hope going forward, we’ve started the dialogue, [and] we can take the pricetag in consideration a little bit more.”
According to the Library Trustees, the construction cost of the current addition proposal is $19.5 million, with an additional $4.9 million in soft costs and contingencies. The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has awarded the city a $5 million grant, based on the library addition meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state requirements. Between the grant funding and the trustees’ fundraising, the cost to the city would be approximately $16.7 million.
“I wish we could bring a project forward that would pass muster and get the support of the mayor, city council and citizens of the city. That being said, I couldn’t support something that doesn’t garner that universal support,” said Ward 7 Alderman Ray Drapeau.
According to figures from the Yes To Our Library group, City Auditor Gerald Surette said the cost to the average homeowner per year would be approximately $67 or $1.29 per week.
In the past, Mayor Scott Galvin has said that the city could afford $5 million for the library project, but no more.
“That is not chump change, that is a lot of money,” said Ward 5 Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen. “I will help, I will do whatever you need me to do to compromise and get to somewhere we can all agree on… The fact of the matter is, even if we want [the current proposal,] we can’t afford it. We have to get to where we can afford it.”
But library supporters say the proposal is at the minimum it can be at, while still receiving the $5 million grant from the state.
“We have been confronted with some objections,” said Library Trustee Richard Mahoney. “First, we are told it is too much money. Next we hear it is much too big and has too many bells and whistles… Is a safe and healthy environment for public and staff a bell or whistle? Our design is not extravagant.”
Ward 1 Alderman Rosa DiTucci, a former library trustee, said she is aware of the “deplorable” conditions at the library.
“I don’t know where it’s going to go, I don’t exactly know how it’s going to proceed if the mayor is saying no and the city council has no authority to appropriate money,” she said. “Woburn deserves better. The people in this city deserve better than what they have.”
Library Director Kathy O’Doherty said the building has reached a “crisis point.”
“Areas are closed for lack of ADA compliance or safety issues,” she added. “This compounds our space problems… The building is beautiful, but even landmarks need help.”
Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately said the council is aware that the building needs help.
“We know that we have to do something about the library,” he said. “My great-grandfather was a stonecutter on the library and I think he would turn over if we didn’t do something about it.
“It comes down to dollars and cents,” he added. “But at least the communication is open now.”
|Library Proposal Cost|
|Project contingencies/soft costs||$4.9|
|Total project cost||$24.4|
|State grant||- $5.0|
|Library fundraising||- $2.7|
|Net city contribution||$16.7|
Source: Yes to Our Library
|Average cost per household, based on a $17 million bond|
|Per quarterly tax bill||$16.75|
Source: Yes to Our Library