Greenfield Town Council OKs library grant

  • Pedestrians pass by the Spanish War monument in front of the Greenfield public library on Main Street Tuesday, February 7, 2017.

  • Visitors to the Greenfield public library browse DVDs in the wing off of the front room. The Town Council voted this week to authorize the Library Building Committee to apply for a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to cover roughly half the cost of a new library.. Recorder file photo/Matt Burkhartt

  • Stew Roberts, of Johnson Roberts Associates Inc. architecture firm, talks about the proposed new Greenfield public library plan during a public forum at the existing library, Tuesday, April 5. Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 16, 2017

GREENFIELD — Although feelings were mixed among town councilors about the proposed new library’s size and location, the council voted to allow the Library Building Committee to move forward with a state grant application that could cover up to half the vertical cost of the building.

The council voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize the committee to apply for the grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The committee already sent its application to the state, but town approval allows the process to move forward. The council also voted to accept the new building’s schematic design, which is not finalized, but was also required as part of the grant application.

By approving the schematic design, the council has locked in the building’s size and location, but other aspects of the design can still be changed.

The modern, 26,800-square-foot building would sit between the current library, located in a historic colonial home on Main Street, and the post office, which also occupies a historic building. The fire station, which sits on the planned site, would have to be torn down.

“I still have a lot of concerns about the schematic design. I think the building isn’t the nicest looking building, and it doesn’t fit (the location),” Council President Brickett Allis said. “I’m hoping those issues can be resolved.”

Library Building Committee Chairwoman Jean Wall said all the council’s vote does is allow the state to decide whether Greenfield deserves a new library.

“Then if they decide that we are eligible for the new library, they will give us a grant and we will come back to the Town Council and ask then if we can go forward with the library with more information,” she said.

The town will hear back from the state about its grant application in July.

Council Vice President Isaac Mass was the only councilor who did not vote in favor of the schematic design, saying he’s concerned about the cost — estimated to be more than $20 million.

“I think there are a lot of people that would like to see taxes come down a little, and a smaller building could accomplish that,” he said.

The Library Building Committee is planning to use a combination of state, local and private funds to pay for the project.

Mass said he’s also concerned with the large amount of community space within the new library, which he believes is an unnecessary duplication of what’s already available in town.

“Most troubling is the community space that was put into the design was not based on what Greenfield needs for community space,” he said. “There was no survey done at all of the community space that’s available.”

Instead of the new building, Mass suggested the library consider restoring its Bookmobile, which would reach residents who cannot access the library easily.

Precinct 8 Councilor Ashli Stempel said she believes if the new library gets built, it will be an economic stimulus, helping downtown businesses by increasing foot traffic.

“I have a vision of families going to this library, adults meeting in this library and then walking downtown, going to dinner or grabbing a beer,” she said, adding if something happens in the future that the council doesn’t like, it can always re-evaluate the plans. “I can say ‘yes’ to this vote without feeling pigeonholed.”

Fire station plans

Mayor William Martin said he’s also in support of the project.

In order for the new library to be built, the current fire station would have to be demolished. The town has been working on plans for a new downtown public safety complex, and Martin said he expects to have more concrete information on that project in about a month.

“I do support the library project, and it and the Public Safety Complex both fall within our debt gap, what we’ve worked out,” he said, adding the town’s payments for both buildings would be calculated within the operating budget.

Wall said 78 people have worked on the grant application over the last three years.

“Every piece of it has been discussed endlessly with a lot of thought and time,” she said.

You can reach Aviva Luttrell at:aluttrell@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268
On Twitter: @AvivaLuttrell