Support runs high for library

  • Former Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura speaks in favor of the library citing his experience with the college renovations. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield resident and former council member Daniel Letourneau uses statistics to support her support for a new library. December 13, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • The New Library meeting at the Greenfield High School was well attended Thursday night. December 13, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Teens in attendance to support the new library proposal. December 13, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ellen Boyer of the Greenfield Public Library addresses those in attendance at Greenfield High School Thursday evening. December 13, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Present site plan for two story library. December 13, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Members of the Greenfield City Council sit in the front row listening to presentations and opinions about the proposed new library. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Ed Berlin of the library committee talks numbers to those in attendance at Greenfield High School Thursday evening. December 13, 2018 Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/14/2018 6:30:17 AM

GREENFIELD — Before an all-star line up of local residents sang the praises of a proposed new public library, Precinct 1 Councilor Verne Sund offered a few words.

“I have people who encourage me to vote ‘yes’ and to vote ‘no,’ ” Sund said plainly.

His comments might have the heaviest weight on a night with nearly 400 people filling out the Greenfield High School auditorium, almost all of whom supported the library plan.

The total price tag of the library is $19.5 million, but a real cost to the city will be closer to $10 million because of a state grant and private fundraising.

The City Council gets to decide, and has scheduled a vote Dec. 19.

Not all of the councilors were present Thursday night to hear the hours of public comment and advocacy — and almost every councilor who was there had already signaled their support of the library.

Councilors present for the special hearing Thursday were: Verne Sund, Precinct 1; Tim Dolan, Precinct 5; Sheila Gilmour, Precinct 6; Otis Wheeler, Precinct 7; Doug Mayo, Precinct 8; and at-large councilors Ashli Stempel, Isaac Mass and Vice President Penny Ricketts.

Absent councilors were: John Lobik, Precinct 2; Brickett Allis, Precinct 3; Wanda Pyfrom, Precinct 4; Daniel Leonvich, Precinct 9; and at-large councilor, President Karen “Rudy” Renaud.

Before public comments came a pitch from the Board of Trustees of the Greenfield Public Library.

Delivering the presentation was Vice President of the Board of Trustees Ed Berlin and project manager Daniel Pallotta.

“This has been a dream that has been long time coming,” Berlin said.

He said about 1,300 residents have signed a petition in favor of the library, with at least 100 signatures per precinct.

“We are no longer warehouses for books,” Greenfield Public Library Director Ellen Boyer said. “We are an access point for information that is dispensed in different ways.”

Some of the figures presented included more detailed costs: about 75 percent of the total cost of the library is projected to cover construction. Design and management will cost about $2.2 million.

They answered a few questions from the council, explaining, for example, that the current proposed size of the library, 26,800 square feet, can be reduced up to 5 percent.

To bring the current 15,253-square-foot library up to today’s standards, the trustees said the cost would be in excess in $7 million.

Part of the price tag for the new library includes funding for the demolition of the adjacent fire station, according to the trustees.

Berlin said to approve this spending the council will not have to agree to a debt override.

Public Comment

First up to the mic was Bob Pura, the recently retired Greenfield Community College president.

“We can’t afford to sit by and watch what becomes of Greenfield,” Pura said, in his first major public comments since retiring this past school year. “We need to plan for and invest for what we want Greenfield to be.”

Will Roberts, a writer and for many years a literature professor at GCC, said motioning to the councilors, “It’s up to you.”

“You are the stewards of our public places and we need you to support this particular case,” Roberts said.

A former council president, David Singer, said, “You can see from this outpouring of support that it is the will of the people of Greenfield to have a new library.”

“We the people of Greenfield are demonstrating to you, our elected leaders, that now is the opportunity,” Singer said. “To raise ourselves up as a community and together be proud that it is this generation that built a library that will last the next hundred years.”

Former Councilor Danielle Letourneau, after explaining finances of the city and her views of its bonding picture, said “There’s no reason to vote ‘no.’ There’s only reasons to vote ‘yes’.”

Businessman and resident Joseph Ruggeri vocalized his support of the library and said he will donate to the fundraising efforts.

Librarian at Greenfield High School Jessica Pollock urged the council to support the library for programming for her students.

Students of the high school, and one of Federal Street school, offered their backing of a new library saying they need an accessible place.

Toward the tail end, with a near empty auditorium, a few residents pushed back on the unequivocal support of the library.

Councilor Mass also asked a few questions to the board, which were said to be a better fit for the city’s financial team to answer.

Berlin wrapped up the meeting, reminding the remaining crowd it was six days until the vote.

How much debt?

The debt picture was calculated by the Mayor’s Office in preparation for the meeting and delivered to councilors in emails.

The calculations included a projection for the fire station at $12 million, although additional sources of funding may be possible with grants. The Mayor’s Office projected the operating budget will grow 2 percent a year, although that’s a heavily rounded number. First bond payments for the library is scheduled for 2025 and the fire station in 2024.

The approximate projected payments for major projects in 2025: senior center, $334,000; parking garage, $203,000; fire station, $940,000; library, $802,000.

The library and fire station projects will account for $156 to the tax bill of the average single family household in Greenfield, according to the Mayor’s Office.

At Thursday’s presentation, the board touted there will be no cost to residents in the first few years. By the time the bonding does come on the books though, the cost will be $71 to the typical family for the library, with an additional $85 from the fire station, coming to that $156 a year price tag.


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