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Library Expansion Back on City Council Table

The board will meet with Library Trustees and other officials on a yet-to-be-determined date.

The is back before the City Council, as the board voted Tuesday to hear discussion on the project at an upcoming Liasion Committee meeting.

Alderman-At-Large Paul Denaro, who chairs the Liasion Committee, said he will set the meeting date at later time.

Several officials have been invited to the meeting, including the Board of Library Trustees, the City Auditor, City Engineer and representatives from the Massachusetts Library board.

Alderman-at-Large Richard Haggery requested the presence of the officials "so that we can ask questions… so we can try to bridge the gap."

"We’re going in circles," he said. "We’re spinning our wheels here on both sides, I would like to see us come to some conclusions."

Denaro had not decided on whether the meeting would be held in the City Council Chambers or in the committee room as of Tuesday night's vote. Haggerty argued against the Chambers, saying that the meeting may be "more productive" if held in the committee room, without a live television broadcast.

Alderman Ray Drapeau, who has been vocal in his support of the library expansion project, said he hopes city officials can come to a compromise at the upcoming Liasion Committee meeting.

"I just want to have everybody take a collective breathe and say, 'Let’s make this happen,'" said Drapeau. "I think it’s too important an issue to just let it pass it by. We know we have a library in a deplorable condition, we need to rectify that. There is no way we can keep it in that condition for the long haul."

Drapeau urged library expansion supporters to look at the size and scope of the project and be ready to discuss other options. The trustees have put forth a proposal for a $24.4 million addition to the  building on . In the past, Mayor Scott Galvin has said that the city could afford $5 million for the library project, but no more.

"This would be a tragedy if it just fell by the wayside and we didn’t do anything," he added.

Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen agreed, adding that she is looking forward to the upcoming meeting.

"We do need to make some changes to the library," she said. "I want to be very clear, I don’t support the plan that is in front of us… I truly hope that when we have our liaison meeting that we will come to some compromises, so we can move forward."

Joe April 20, 2011 at 11:11 AM
I understand that work needs to be done at the library, but I don't agree with the price tag. It is unfathomable that the library trustees refuse to scale back their plans in accordance with today's economics. What will end up happening is that no work will be done. The Trustees need to compromise and then and only then will they get the support from the community and an upgrade to the library.
Christi April 20, 2011 at 03:32 PM
I think that people need to understand that the plan on the table right now IS a compromise. It has taken years of discussion, analysis and reports to come up with this proposal. Years. It was not created just by the library Trustees - the plan involved City officials on a building committee, an independent consultant, and library personnel who all worked with the state recommendations for library building. The end result is a plan that expands the library facilities, respects the historic integrity of the original building and makes the entire library safe to use for all people. There seems to be this assumption that the library staff and Trustees are being rigid and demanding with this project. That they are "refusing to scale back". That is entirely NOT the case. There are certain limitations put on state funding for library buildings - minimum standards for service and space. The library project is ALREADY at that minimum. If more than 5% of the square footage is cut from the plan then the grant, which accounts for about a quarter of the funding, would be forfeit. While $16 million is a large price (what the City would need to pay after the library's grant from the state and the library's fundraising), it is a fraction of what comparable expansion projects cost. Everyone working on the project is cognizant of the price and cuts have been made at every step of the process.
William April 20, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Once again we come to the question; "What is needed?" In looking at the expansion we see a massive portion dedicated to "traditional" library construction of which we don't use in our current building? The only use that this Library is in need of expansion of is the computer lab area, ability to showcase our cities artifacts and perhaps a larger children's area; All of which does not come close to justifying over doubling the size of the current building. Furthermore, How many people are needed to justify a Library mega-plex? Yes, we have a larger population but this is 2011?; One can get most if not all "research/information" from a cell phone, books are downloaded electronically to I-pads. Should we still have typing centers for those who still use typewriters? Leave our Historic building alone; Convert the Clap school into a children's center /computer lab and save the city millions in lifetime expenses and construction costs.
Joe April 20, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Christi, I feel you and all who have worked on this project, but the sad reality is is that if you don't scale it back even further you will end up with no renovation. It's unfortunate that the economy tanked when it did, but the harsh reality is we don't have the money, at this time, to justify such an enormous expansion. Figure out what is REALLY needed and go with that. Compromise further or you won't see any renovation or expansion. The truth is tough to hear.
Jodi June 10, 2011 at 12:52 AM
How come it doesn't show the Uglyness of the Towanda club behind it ? What an awful site!

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