Library Project Essentially Dead

Two City Council votes Tuesday night have stalled the Woburn Public Library expansion proposal.

Hours of discussion, heated debate and high temperatures filled Chambers Tuesday night, as the City Council, Mayor Scott Galvin and the Board of Library Trustees discussed .

The council, reacting to an order on its table from March, was charged with deciding whether to apply for a 2011 state grant to help fund a $24 million library expansion project. 

Mayor Scott Galvin emphasized that he would not support the $24 million project, but was willing to support a smaller, $15 million project using a grant from 2008. The deadline to accept that grant is June 16.

"This [$24 million] project is not going anywhere," said City Council President Paul Denaro during Tuesday's discussion. "We have a few more days [to compromise]... We might be able to save this thing before the 16th. Other than that, it's dead." 

Mayor Galvin told the council Tuesday that he feels like a library project is needed, but not at the scope presented by the Board of Library Trustees. 

"I think we’re all working for the same end result," said the mayor. "I don’t think we should be battling one another on this. I think we’re all working to the same end and I think that at the end of the day we can get there."

According to Mayor Galvin's proposal, the city would put forth $5.5 million for a $15 million project that would utilize nearly $3 million in Library Trustees fund-raising, a $4.7 million grant and $3.5 million in historic renovation tax credits.

The mayor said Tuesday that the city would put forward a $15 million bond, but would not pay more than $5.5 million for the project. 

"You stand here tonight giving the Library Trustees and their [patrons $5.5 million,]" said Alderman Richard Gately to the mayor. "I applaud you for that. I think the option is more than feasible."

Galvin told officials Tuesday that he felt like he needed the support of the Library supporters, as well the city, for the $15 million project to move forward.  

"We need the cooperation of City Council and my office as well," said Mayor Galvin. "It is definitely a three-way street."

After briefly discussing the project, the City Council voted 5-4 in favor of tabling the library topic until the end of the meeting. About an hour-and-a-half later, it was back on the table. 

Library Trustee Janet Rabbitt called Mayor Galvin's $5.5 million offer "generous," but asked that it be applied to the $24 million proposal and not the $15 million idea.

According to Rabbitt, the $15 million proposal, which was drawn up prior to the 2008 grant award, "had a lot of problems." After the problems were realized, the library worked on a new plan—the $24 million proposal. 

"I think the $24 million project is too expensive," said Galvin. "[The $15 million project] is where I stand. And I think that’s very fair to the city… If that’s not enough for people, I don’t know what to tell you."

"We can revise [the original $15 million plan]," added the mayor. "We can find a way to make our plan not deficient."

But Rabbitt said the Library Trustees have not seen the mayor's proposal and could not make a decision on whether it's acceptable or not.

"I have to say, I’m a little surprised," said Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen. "I thought, I really thought, because there was going to be a commitment to working forward that people would be elated. I’m shocked. To hear the mayor say I’m going to bring down a bond, let’s accept this grant and do what we’ve been talking about doing for 14 months… To hear him say that tonight, that he’s willing to do that, I really thought we’d all be dancing in the streets... 

"The bond will be there," she added. "We can have a library. We can have it. Why aren’t you saying, 'Yay?' I don’t understand."

Alderman Rosa DiTucci, who has supported the library expansion as a member of the City Council, said that she understood the $3.5 million in tax credits would only be applied to the project if $8 to 10 million were spent in renovations to the existing, historic building, leaving $5 million for the actual expansion project.

"I don’t know if we could do that even if we handed out picks and shovels to everyone in Woburn," she said. 

Both DiTucci and Alderman Ray Drapeau questioned why Galvin was not in favor of spending $5.5 million on the Library Trustees' $24 million proposal.

"If the Library Trustees have proposed $24 million, but still aren’t asking you for more than $5.5 million, how does that deter you from wanting to support that?" asked Drapeau. "You're still only spending $5.5 million."

"$24 million is too much money," responded Galvin. "It’s irresponsible; it’s not going to happen."

After more than two hours of total discussion Tuesday, City Council opted to vote for applying for a 2011 state grant that would allow them to move forward on the $24 million project, but cap city spending at $5.5 million.

That motion was approved by a 5-4 vote with Aldermen Mike Anderson, Rosa DiTucci, Rich Haggerty, Mark Gaffney and Ray Drapeau voting in favor.

But when voting on whether to put forward the 2011 grant application, with the $5.5 million spending cap, the board turned it down with Aldermen Mike Anderson, Richard Gately, Mike Raymond, Paul Denaro and Darlene Mercer-Bruen voting to squash the application. Aldermen Ray Drapeau, Rosa DiTucci, Mark Gaffney and Rich Haggerty voted in favor of moving forward with the 2011 grant application.

With those votes done, the only issue still at hand was voting on whether to accept Mayor Galvin's $15 million proposal, and the state grant already on the table, which needed to be decided upon before June 16. But City Council opted to adjourn at 10:53 p.m. and did not discuss the $15 million proposal further. 




Bob Gonsalves June 11, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Because I love the old Library I support its renovation and expansion, but with an addition which merges the GBT design with the compactness of the old, $15M plan. This debate has the openness I have long sought, so .. I spent long hours at the library, went to the puppet shows, read every book in the Octagon room, did High School to PhD research in the magnificent reading room, and served as a Library Trustee from 2001-08. During my time as a Trustee the $15M plan was developed, was widely praised by the public and was approved by the state. BTW it is still approved, despite statements on this forum and elsewhere to the contrary. The design can change with only one restriction: the addition must be larger than 21,065*0.95=20,011 SF. This is more than the 15,000 SF the library found was needed in a 1996 state-funded study. (RFQ for the architect, 2009) I left the Board in 2008 confident that the addition would be built to the general specs of the plan. But I was wrong. At its first meeting a newly formed Building Committee announced it was “in the process of writing a new building program to address Library needs that have changed since the program was first completed.” (4-17-08 minutes) The new plan emerged in 2010 as the $24M plan. The Council voted against it last Tuesday. But there is hope. I urge the Council to fund the $16M plan next week. Then the Building Committee can work out the details and construction can begin in the spring. Bob Gonsalves
Edward Quinn June 11, 2011 at 06:43 PM
I agree with Bob Gonsalves, we must move forward the plan is not the issue and for me the dollars are not what is the issue. The issue is we need a true Library program fit for the 21st century. Bricks and mortar do not make a library we can disagree about the cost but if we follow the state guidelines we will get a grant. We are faced with two choices Three if you ignore the first two until after this Thursday, Option 1 you take the $4.7 million state grant on the table and you build a building for $15-16 million that is in the bank until this Thursday. Option 2 you submit the new application that is the CBT 24 Million dollar project and you get approved and on the wait list for 9-10 Million dollars, In that time like the last grant you refine value engineer and tweak the plan to what you want likely we would have 3-4 years. The one caveat is, what cost $15 million today is likely to cost much more in 4-5 years how much good question. No one can tell you that, yet be certain the cost will go up for the exact same plan. Option 3 Is the Mayors current plan stall sit and kill the project and maybe have $5.5 Million Dollars to do the entire library project on the Property tax alone. If it will cost more then you and I will have to pony up. There is not likely to be another round of state grants for 6 years. This, in my opinion, is a true lack of fiscal responsibility and is recklessly endangering every property owner in the city with a bill we may not have an option on
William June 11, 2011 at 06:55 PM
"William please your a selective libertarian then Libraries have been around going back to Alexandia they change just as society does to meet society's needs and wants not to influence but to provide knowledge." Perhaps if you make a coherent point I can respond. I find it amusing how you assume I was for or against something (10 million on open space) when I never mentioned anything pertaining to the matter. The issue is the Library; Let's stick with the topic and not look at other issues to find justification to a MEGAPLEX that is not justifiable.
William June 11, 2011 at 07:36 PM
I still haven't seen any factual comparison to the vital role the Library held in say 1911 or any time prior to the "dot com" era to it's current/lesser function in the year 2011. The justification for tax dollars to over double the size and services the Library offers is not justifiable. "I don't have kids in the school system so I guess I shouldn;t be forced to pay for your three". You actually believe an adults ability to have free Internet accesses is equal to or more important than educating the next generation? Sorry but I disagree. However, to your point of paying for schools. I am for tax dollars being spent wisely and would rather see any such funds go toward the preservation of the Library than the totally unnecessary Hurld/Wyman elementary school project.
Edward Quinn June 11, 2011 at 07:44 PM
Oh Please You’re a libertarian when it is convenient. You have posted here on the Patch on other issues of spending in the city ie Clapp and you have been around for other projects like the Goodyear. I think it is very clear you are nothing more then a tool for the Mayor. You sat and participated in the Goodyear planning and approval and building and had little publicly to say Now you talk about the MEGAPLEX an addition that puts us at a square footage for state guidelines is a MEGAPLEX. I suppose the homes on the west side are estates. Again I will say you have no idea how and what a Library does day in and day out just as you are likely not to know what a school does outside of a classroom. I think in all of the discussion, you miss critical points the building is 131 years old like the old High School the interior structure is all wood, no steel like a modern building and the skin that we all so love is so thick that the actual usable Square footage is to small for a community our size and it does not comply with the ADA. Something we have been on thin ice for more then a decade. As a Trustee you should have known that. It would appear that like the Mayor you are scared of the cost, yet under your guidance and that of the Mayor if the project does not get one of the two grants on the table we will have to undertake the renovation of the existing building all on City Funds How is that fiscal responsibility?
William June 11, 2011 at 08:35 PM
I have been consistent and never hypocritical to my Libertarian views. The only thing you correctly mentioned is that I made comments about the Clapp school. As to your recollection of what my position was and how it contradicts a "libertarian view point" is as mistaken as the rest of your post. I have never sat in on the planning of the Goodyear and am not a trustee. It does not cost 24 million to make the Library ADA compliant. Futhermore, not all 38,000 residents of the city use the Library. If they did or even say 1/8 of them did; You would see our city officials moving this project forward. Please stick to what the topic is instead of trying to assume what I think or who I am.
William June 11, 2011 at 08:42 PM
I'm curious how you came to that number? Are we talking tax payers divided by project cost or all citizens? There is a big difference in how that number gets divided and who is actually paying into the "system" and who is not.
William June 11, 2011 at 08:52 PM
It's not "use" that is less and less every year but perhaps the "type" of use. As I mentioned before I and many others needed the Library to do ANY research for things like Science projects and buying a car. To say that type of "use" has grown would be false. Renting DVDs and people wanting to go on the Internet; Yes that "use" has grown. Should these types of services compare to those of the past and dictate that we spend 24 million to provide such use? I don't think it should.
William June 11, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Erica, your post was perfect and I would be happy to bring my tools to the event. If the concern is the national historic building and its long term solvency then why put forth the addition and propose such a large project?
Janet June 12, 2011 at 11:55 AM
I hope that the Mayor and members of the City Council are frequent users of the Woburn Public Library as that would give credence to their decisions because they understand the pain of its loyal users . Do they all have library cards? When was the last time they used the library? I have watched many City Council meetings on tv. I thank the Council members for their generosity in serving the people of Woburn but with incumbency can come familiarity and the belief that I know better than the "little people." Please don't be stagnant take something, the money being offered and all parties involved please make it work so that the people in Woburn may look with pride as they should at the historical landmark that is the Woburn Public Library.
Sue Sullivan June 12, 2011 at 05:01 PM
(part 1 of 2) Why did certain council members vote against authorizing the trustees to apply for the larger grant when it was explained that there would be NO additional funding sought from the city to do so? It’s senseless not to try to “get the most for the least” regarding the library project, especially if it will not cost the city anything extra – except a little more time and planning for downsizing and value engineering. Perhaps the vote was based on the mayors tantrum displayed at the meeting? He adamantly proclaimed he has a “15M plan” that will satisfy the needs of the project. Yet, he did not offer documentation of his plan to the trustees, and only a chosen few on the council had been made privy to it. If this is the way things really work in our city then why do we have elections? If the trustees had presented their plan in such a manner, I doubt they would have achieved the same result! (continued)
Sue Sullivan June 12, 2011 at 05:02 PM
(part 2 of 2) The grant was awarded based on Woburn’s dyer need for an updated library, NOT based on the initial design. At that time city leaders appropriated $300,000 to the trustees to retain a project manager and architect to design a building that the state could embrace. If the mayor is now designing the project, that $300,000 was a waste of the tax payer’s money. The most disappointing thing was how Alderman Raymond and Anderson leapt onto the Mayor’s bandwagon versus voting independently. And also, Council President, Denaro who was once a strong supporter of the Library. How can ANY of them think that a sub-standard plan is the way to go now? This was truly disheartening to witness. I wonder what the reasoning was behind their votes. Why is the Mayor adamant about limiting which grant the trustee’s seek when it won’t make any difference to the city funds pledged?
Yesto OurLibrary June 12, 2011 at 06:01 PM
What is not clear is why there is so much animosity toward the Library on the part of Alderpeople Denaro, Gately, Anderson, Raymond, and Mercer-Bruen? As a body they claim to understand the need to take care of our National Historic landmark building, but then say we don't need an architectural masterpiece. Hearing that, one audience member remarked that the building should be picked up and moved to a community that would appreciate it! If you have cable, you can watch the Tuesday meeting on your local cable access channel. The schedule is: Sun, June 12 @ 11:00 pm Tue, June 14 @ 3:00 pm Wed, June 15 @ 1:30 pm Thur, June 16 @ 12:00 noon Fri, June 17 @ 9:30 am Sat, June 18 @ 5:00 am Maybe someone can actually make sense out of what happened? Or, maybe Mr. Raymond and Mr. Anderson will realize how they were "played" and they will stand up for what is right???!!!
William June 12, 2011 at 11:56 PM
I thought there was a hiring freeze? If what you say is true, I would be the first to look to another voting option. This was one of if not THE issue that lost the election for the previous mayor.
K Richardson June 13, 2011 at 02:44 AM
To William, Nope - that was the last mayor who had a hiring freeze. He significantly reduced the number of city employees through attrition. Sorry to say that lies go far and the truth has a harder time being heard, especially when people are angry at the government in general. Don't you think that people are too willing to believe the negative? Like the people who believe that the library trustees are selfish and only thinking of themselves. It's hard to buck that kind of negativity. Someone said it in an earlier post. If it makes a good sound bite it will stick.
Yesto OurLibrary June 13, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Actually, there is still, technically, a hiring freeze. Certain city departments, like, for example, the library, have not been able to fill empty positions (including a reference librarian) for years. Yet, new and old positions have been filled in other departments. And, if you watched any of the budget hearings, Alderman Gately asked Human Resources Director about library staffing. (Remember, he is the one who claimed, a couple of years ago, that the entire Cambridge Public Library system was run with only 8 employees!) When the Library Director stepped up to talk about her department, not a question was asked. So, what do you suppose is going on in the minds of the council when it comes to the library budget?
Edward Quinn June 13, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Another test for Mayor Galvin and his Council is the proposed cut to the Woburn Library Budget in this FY 2012 budget. The council meets tonight in the Finance committee to put the finishing touches on the budget that they also must pass this week or next. The test of their concern and commitment to the Library seems to obvious in ways that go beyond the building project. Maybe the fog of a pattern is lifting on the course of our government and the Mayor. Will they instead of being concerned and supportive of this community service relegate the Library to a non essential service status that needs to be cut and hacked to death. Are we going down the road of communities like Saugus, Bridgewater and Wareham that have seen decertification and a lose of use of other community Libraries and worse case the closing of the building here in Woburn? Why do our elected officials get to dictate the wants and needs of it's residents. Is it all EGO? Could be the old TV show axiom "Father knows best" ? Is it the fact that we have not stood up and said this is not what we want? Maybe a combination of all three. What must happen is, our voices need to be heard as to what our community holds as important . Make clear where do we want services like our library to rank above Rubbish pick up or below? Speak up now or accept what you get for a community.
Bob Gonsalves June 13, 2011 at 05:09 PM
I urge our city leaders to approve a plan to renovate and expand our library. Here’s how it can be done. In 1996 the library conducted a State-funded study which showed a need for 15,000 square feet. The City prepared a $16M plan with a 21,065 SF addition. It was approved by the State in 2005 and received a grant of $4.8M in 2008. The grant is still available. A recent MBLC letter states “the 2005/2008 grant is REAL, and it exists right now in the State’s Capital Budget.” In 2009 the Library Building Committee hired GBT Architects and GBT designed a plan with a 28,000 SF addition and a cost of $24.5M. Last week the City Council rejected the plan. Also last week the Mayor said that he will bond the 2005 plan. If the Council agrees, that’s all it will take to start the project. No new plan is needed and the State will give the City an initial $1,432,718 this summer. During the summer GBT can change the 2005 design with only one restriction: it must be larger than 21,065*0.95 = 20,012 SF. Thus a final plan can have the look and feel of the modern, GBT design. The details can be worked out by the Building Committee. Thus, the addition can be finished as early as 2013 - an addition with an inviting Children’s room, space for young adults, lots of computers, and an inspiring environment. This is our best chance ever to modernize the library. If the Council takes this path it will be an historic, unifying vote - a Flag Day present to our future generations.
Christi June 13, 2011 at 06:09 PM
Thank you for your comment and for your support, Bob. Just a few corrections, though. It's CBT Architects ( http://www.cbtarchitects.com/ ) They were chosen because of their work on historic buildings, such as the MFA and the Thomas Crane Library (another Richardson building and National Historic Landmark) The 1996 study to which you refer is now FIFTEEN years old. In that time the population of Woburn has increased nearly 6% and library use has gone up more than 200% (Computer use has gone up 700%). The 2005 plan mentioned was based on incorrect numbers regarding the square footage of the current library. That fact, as well as the lack of young adult space and the passage of time, led the Trustees to re-do the building plan (the document the architects use to create a proposed structure) when the grant was finally funded by the state in 2008. Not only is the 2005 plan six years old...it is inaccurate. Do we want an inaccurate, sub-standard building? What you DO have correct is that the 2008 grant still exists. The deadline is this Thursday, June 16. If the City accepts the grant, the proposed plan on the table right now (the one designed by CBT) can be cut by 5% and can be value-engineered to further reduce costs. There is still a chance for the library!
Bob Gonsalves June 13, 2011 at 09:56 PM
Christi, I like your positive attitude. It smacks of making lemonade when you're handed a lemon, which the first plan was. I'm quite aware of the deficiencies of that first plan. I was its biggest critic during my service on the Library Board. In particular I thought the design was inefficient because it had twin, three -story towers, with useful space only on the ground floor. The new entry was on the ground floor out of the line-of-sight of the circulation desk on the main floor. Also, the addition had a bizarre 8-degree tilt away from the old library which caused it to encroach on the Senior Housing. Despite these reservations I voted to approve the plan because I was confident we would be able to correct the problems once we got started. It was approved by the MBLC in 2005 and was awarded a $4.8Mgrant in 2008. I see a distinct parallel to the current status of our library. I say, let's get something started by accepting the $4.8M grant, which is already approved. Then, under the direction of the Library Building Committee, build the addition with the look and feel of the CBT design . Otherwise we will have to see if the City will approve a future application, if the MBLC will approve the plan, if State funding becomes available, and if a future City administration will fund the project. That's a lot of ifs. We have passed all those hurdles, already, with the 2005 plan. I'd say it's time to set up a lemonade stand.
Yesto OurLibrary June 14, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Not a single mention of the Library project tonight. Budget passed with no discussion about the library. There are still two days left. It seems like the Mayor and City Council are just going to let this opportunity pass Woburn by. I hope everyone remembers their actions when election time comes up in November!
Bob Gonsalves June 14, 2011 at 03:20 PM
I find it very interesting that "Yes to Our Library" says the Mayor and City Council are the culprits who will let this opportunity pass. This issue has three legs, not two. The third leg is the group of Library supporters, consisting of the Trustees, the Building Committee, the library staff and citizens like me. So far I have heard only three individual voices from this last group, namely one staff member, one non-affiliated activist and yours truly, who support the compromise offered by the Mayor as the best hope to get an addition built. That compromise is to accept the $4.8M grant and build a smaller addition with the look of the CBT design. This would allow the addition to be started this summer. If you really see this as an opportunity then speak out in favor of the Mayor's compromise. I've seen what the full battery of Library supporters can do. So do it! Email the Mayor and Council members to insist that the Mayor's proposal be voted on by the Council before the end of the day on June 16. Then show up to support the compromise with the same energy you did to support the larger addition.
Sue Sullivan June 15, 2011 at 01:47 AM
Unless I'm not understanding what I've heard at the meetings, the mayor's plan seems to be based on the initial sub-standard plan which the state will most likely not support. It is so disappointing how he insists that Woburn should settle for less, rather than grab hold of the larger grant opportunity for a much better facility. His demeanor suggessts something less than support for the project at all. This city deserves a library we can be proud of for many generatons to come, not one that 'could have' and 'should have' been done better. So it seems that the best and perhaps the only real option, is on the verge of slipping through the hands of the library for another 7 years. I anticipate that the special meeting that has been called for the 16th, will be more of the same that I witnessed at recent meetings, though I sincerely hope that I am wrong.
Lynne June 15, 2011 at 02:01 PM
The Mayor has called Special Meeting of the City Council on Thursday, June 16, at 7:00 pm to discuss the Library grant application. Let's hope he has read the comments here, and informed himself about the options. It will be a great disservice to the community if he again shows up without an actual plan and a way to fund it, but I will be hopeful that he has listened and heard and will be ready to do the right thing!
Virginia June 15, 2011 at 08:03 PM
Yesterday, early afternoon, someone commented that perhaps the city council was breaking open meeting laws. Could that someone please repost? I would like the website which was on the posting, so I too can do some research. At one of the televised city council meetings Darlene Bruen referred to these meetings, phone conversations and emails as “LOBBYING”. I would like to do some checking so please, please post the website.
Lynne June 15, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Hi, Virginia, I am not sure who posted about open meeting laws, but here is a link about that you can use for research: http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=cagoterminal&L=3&L0=Home&L1=Government&L2=The+Open+Meeting+Law&sid=Cago&b=terminalcontent&f=government_oml_guidebook&csid=Cago Hope this helps!
Sue Sullivan June 16, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Thank you (again) to the Aldermen/women who are supporting the $24M grant application for the library. I urge the other Aldermen/women to do the same. I am also hoping that every citizen who CAN be there, WILL be ther to show their support tonight!
Erica Foster June 16, 2011 at 02:37 PM
I am glad to know that my post brought levity - I was fearing an assault of verbal degradation. Anyway, I flipped some quick numbers.....if anyone is interested.... If the town itself raised 25 million... (based on a 39,000 person population - yes, I realize kids etc are in there too... anyway) It would cost every person....$641 TOTAL. So double that (considering unemployed,retire and children giving the bulk to the employed tax payers....1,200. $100 a month or less. Stretch this as extra tax over a few years and it is pennies on the dollar. If we raised the 5.5 million the city is dangling in front of us as if we are donkeys (perhaps viewing us more like J-A*** and less donkeys) it would be $141 per person. Again consider those with no income as as above and it is $282. These numbers seem fairly realistic. I do understand that many of us face economic recession but "Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead.
Erica Foster June 16, 2011 at 02:43 PM
I think what I am trying to say is the big picture - the total number - is highly ominous and seems unobtainable when in fact, it is closer to us succeeding when taking small bites. (-:
Holly June 16, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Would it be to simple to make a complex situation by asking..... If I gave you a lottery ticket for the chance to win 24 million would you hang on to that ticket in hopes of being a winner or give it back because your are not interested????


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