Council may delay library vote as it seeks more data, fills empty seat

  • Greenfield Public Library and Fire Station on Main Street. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/8/2019 8:43:04 PM

GREENFIELD — The vote on a new public library is not expected to be taken up at next week’s City Council meeting, but instead more likely pushed off to February, if not later, as town officials gather more votes and more information. 

For a mix of reasons, including giving more time for fundraising, waiting for a report on a new fire station location and wanting to wait for the new Precinct 2 councilor, City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud said she does not expect the library vote this month.

The Greenfield Public Library trustees is on the same page and said at a board meeting Tuesday, they do not expect the vote this month. 

Ultimately a decision to take up the vote, which was tabled by the council in December, will be up to a majority vote of the council next week. If the council, led by Renaud, does not want to take up the motion to pay for a $19.5 million library in January, then it does not have to do that. 

Instead, the vote is more likely to come up in February, although it could be held to March or even April.

The council has until April 30 to vote on the plan for a new library before a $9.4 million grant from the state expires. In November, the library trustees requested an extension from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners past its original January deadline, which was granted. If the council doesn’t make a decision by the end of April, it is widely understood that the current library plan is effectively dead because the state’s early 50 percent match would go away. 

There needs to be a two-thirds majority of the council to approve the spending on the library, and a simple majority to take up the tabled motion.

After the state grant and planned donations are deducted from the overall cost, local taxes would cover about $10.1 million. The new library would be 26,800 square feet compared to the current 15,253-square-foot building. In addition to being more spacious, with rooms for a variety of meetings and programs, the new library would include improved handicap accessibility and special areas for children, teens and adults.

There have been questions on not only whether Greenfield can afford a new library, but whether it can afford a new library and fire station at the same time.

If the library is built, the fire station has to move, although building a new fire station elsewhere has been in the planning for some time. Currently an initial study is being completed to find out whether the Beacon and Riddell streets site will work for a fire station, and if so, at what cost. Advocates have said the city has budgeted for both a public safety complex and a library for years in its capital improvement spending plan, and therefore is prepared to take on a project like this. 

In the meantime, Renaud said she hopes to fill the empty Precinct 2 seat, which was opened up by John Lobik leaving at the end of the year for health reasons. 

“I prefer to have the library vote with Precinct 2 represented,” Renaud said. “It’ll wait until the councilor is seated.” 

An ad-hoc committee of five councilors has been formed, with appointments made by Renaud,  to give the council president a recommendation on who she will propose to the full council as the replacement for the remaining year of Lobik’s term. Renaud’s recommendation still needs a majority vote from the full council before the person can assume the position, and likely cast a vote on the library.

Meanwhile, the library’s foundation has announced it has raised a total of $500,000 in pledges toward its $2 million goal, and it continues to grow. Trustee Joseph Ruggeri said Tuesday he will continue to lead a push for more pledges for a new library, which could replace the existing one that was first built in 1797 and brought on as the town’s library in 1908.

Ruggeri told the trustees Wednesday night at the Root Cellar that there will be a show there to benefit the new library and on Saturday, the 12th, Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center is scheduled to host a benefit for the library, too. 

Plastic

Renaud said she does not want to wait for this additional councilor before a vote on a proposed plastic bag ordinance, which is still scheduled to come up at next week’s full council meeting. 

“In terms of how long the plastic bag ordinance has been kicking around,” she said, “it’s time we get it done.” 

The plastic bag vote, which is up for reconsideration after a no-vote in October, could also be tabled. It could also be moved entirely and head to the ballot box.

Councilor Isaac Mass has suggested a binding referendum on store use of thin-film plastic bags. Renaud has countered, saying it’s better for the council to do what it was elected to do and make a vote representative of the will of its constituents. 

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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