Council shelves library plan

  • Rod Burrell spoke of prudent spending at the City Council meeting Wednesday night. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud talks with Councilor Isaac Mass prior to their meeting in the cafeteria at the Greenfield High School Wednesday night. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ann Mayo spoke in favor of the Library Proposal at the City Council Meeting Wednesday night. December 19, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ—Paul Franz

  • Liv Christensen, 8, with her mother Stephanie Allen of Greenfield, spoke in favor of a new library at the City Council Meeting Wednesday night. December 19, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ—Paul Franz

  • City Councilors chat prior to their meeting in the cafeteria at the Greenfield High School Wednesday night. December 19, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ—Paul Franz

  • People in attendance, many in green tee shirts supporting the library, pack the cafeteria at the Greenfield High School for the Council Meeting Wednesday night. December 19, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ—Paul Franz

  • Mayor Bill Martin listens to public comments at the City Council Meeting Wednesday night. December 19, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ—Paul Franz

  • City Council meeting in the cafeteria at the Greenfield High School Wednesday night. December 19, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ—Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2018 11:32:57 PM

GREENFIELD — A decision on a new library will have to wait, at least until next month, following a dramatic decision Wednesday to table the City Council vote on the $19.5 million project.

Following a speech by Precinct 1 Councilor Vern Sund, who was seen as a crucial swing vote, in which he said he is a “No” until more money is raised by the community, Councilor Sheila Gilmour quickly called for a motion for reconsideration.

It had become clear the library might be voted down if it had come to a vote on a Wednesday night at Greenfield High School with about 200 people in the audience and standing room only.

“None of the big money people are willing to step up and come out before the vote is taken tonight, so how can I be willing to say yes?” Sund said, which soon triggered the reconsideration vote.

While the newly elected pro-library councilors agreed to table the vote, the reconsideration vote came down to a political play between Councilor Isaac Mass and Vice President Penny Ricketts.

Mass originally said he was going to abstain, but when Ricketts took a long pause to decide her vote, he changed his vote. This led to Ricketts deciding to agree to table the motion, seeing that if it was indeed voted on Wednesday night, it was likely to fail.

Sund’s question though was one that had lingered the last two weeks, as some people came forward to donate, but not many. During the meeting, the library representatives did not give a firm number of how much they had been pledged to date, but in the past few days they have received $50,000 in pledges toward a $2 million campaign.

Ricketts and other councilors were ready to vote on the library Wednesday night, although it was not necessary to vote one way or the other then.

The original deadline for the city to match a state $9.4 million grant was Jan. 11, but the library had asked for an extension on Oct. 26 and was granted it on Nov. 1. The extension to April 30 was not discussed at last week’s big public meeting that showed an outpouring of public support, and the strength of a strong and vocal grassroots campaign, but it was reported Wednesday.

Out of the 200 or so who arrived to the council meeting, most of whom acknowledged their support for the library in a show of hands, a couple dozen came forward to speak during public comment.

Wednesday night, once again a majority of those who spoke advocated for the library.

“People love the library,” resident Pete Brown said. “It’s maybe the perfect example of a public good.”

An 8-year-old Franklin Street resident said: “I want a new library because I want some more space to read and I’d like more space for programs. Thank you for your time.”

There was some open critiques to the library project, particularly on whether the city can actually afford it.

“I’m not against the library, but if we’re going to do this,” resident Rod Burrell said, “make sure we’ve looked at every possible fundraising option and every grant option … make sure we know the exact costs of everything being proposed before us this evening.”

The library has been long in the works, or at least in discussion, but prior grant opportunities had not been successful in the past. Library supporters have seen this as its strongest opportunity in years, if not decades.

Given the grant, and up to $2 million in private donations, the taxpayers would need to borrow roughly $10 million more for a 26,800-square-foot building to replace the current 15,253-square-foot building built two centuries ago as a home.

As the hundred or so left around 10 p.m., three hours past the start time, local businessmen and donor to the library campaign Joseph Ruggeri left the room with a chant.

“Think positive; we continue,” Ruggeri said with his arm in the air, chanting while walking out of the high school cafeteria.




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