Greenfield residents: Where do we meet without the library?

  • Mayor William Martin’s Oct. 16 executive order that closed the ground floor meeting rooms of the Greenfield Public Library has left residents wondering where they can meet instead and how to book those spaces. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2019 11:12:46 PM

GREENFIELD — Mayor William Martin’s Oct. 16 executive order that closed the ground floor meeting rooms of the Greenfield Public Library has left residents wondering where they can meet instead and how to book those spaces.

The public meeting spaces remaining are the schools and the John Zon Community Center. Questions included those from Precinct 5 City Councilor Timothy Dolan, who asked Martin for clarification about the process of booking meeting room space in the John Zon Community Center.

Booking the John Zon

Martin said the city devoted a task force to provide policies and procedures for the public use of the community center starting in 2018.

“There continues to be two main issues — liability and resources (human and monetary) to carry this out. To that extent, we have failed,” Martin wrote in an email. “Time and staff have hindered our ability to roll out a policy for non-governmental use. ... We will be submitting a request to the City Council for November for a part-time position under the Council on Aging to schedule, monitor and implement the policy.”

The mayor’s office recently received three requests to book the John Zon Community Center:

■From Emma Morgan of Not in Our Town for its October meeting on Oct. 30, from 7 to 8:45 p.m.;

■ From Lew Metaxas of the Greenfield Citizens Association for a mayoral debate on a date/time to be coordinated (now organized by Dawn Morin of Greenfield Citizens for Transparency);

■ And from Sandy Kosterman of the Greenfield Citizens Association for an educational event on the legal process of becoming a citizen on Oct. 24, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

“With the current issues at the library, I am aware that public meeting space is at a premium and that while the policy for use at the John Zon Community Center is almost finalized, I am trying to accommodate groups where possible,” Martin wrote in an email. “When we get a request, we must examine time, space and staff. The dates in question were open.”

Issue with process?

According to Dolan, though, the process of accessing the community center is a problem.

“As a librarian, I well understand the First Amendment requirements for use of public space, but I also know that every library, including our own, has a set of clear policies about when and how community groups can book space, and that these policies have to be applied consistently,” Dolan wrote in an email. “In contrast, the process by which these three groups gained access to the community center is as opaque as it is capricious.”

He called for the three events to be canceled on the basis that “access to the community center has not been extended to all community groups on an equitable basis,” and events shouldn’t be scheduled until there are policies and procedures in place.

According to Martin, his office has been handling process for several months about when the public can use the community center and has been unable to dedicate time to dealing with this policy, process and procedures.

“Any group who wants to access the JZCC, like these, can continue to do so by emailing my office (mayor@greenfield-ma.gov) with their requested date and time,” Martin wrote in an email. “This is the same process as has existed for months.”

Other options and relocating programs

Other city meeting spaces include the second floor of the City Hall, the second floor of 20 Sanderson St. and the meeting room in the Police Department, which are for governmental use only. To use the schools, a facilities usage form must be completed and there may be an associated cost.

While the two meeting rooms in the library are unable to be used, work is being done to relocate events, including library programs.

Library Director Ellen Boyer said the best way to get updated information is on the library’s website.

“We hope to find locations for some of the more popular and well-attended programs within the month,” Boyer said. “We update the events section of the calendar as we receive information.”

She said the process, however, has been wonderful.

“We’ve been in contact with wonderful organizations that don’t typically have space that is open to the public, but they have reached out and tried to help us find solutions,” she said.

Visit greenfieldpubliclibrary.org to find the calendar and event listing on the right-hand side of the website. The library can be reached with questions at 413-772-1544.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.




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