Plans For New Library Not Headed To Town Meeting
By: Mary Stanley
Town Meeting voters in May will not get the chance to weigh-in on plans to build a new library building in South Sandwich.
Last night, selectmen were split, 2 - 2, over the Sandwich Public Library Board of Trustees’ request to bring the library plans forward.
Selectman Ralph A. Vitacco was not at last night's meeting, leaving only four members to vote on the issue. In the case of a tie vote, the motion fails.
Last June, selectmen designated three acres of land inside near the corner of Cotuit and Quaker Meetinghouse roads in South Sandwich for the new library so that the board of trustees could move forward with a state grant application that would cover up to half the project costs. The final part of the grant process called for a vote of support at Town Meeting.
"Putting an article on the warrant in no way commits the town to funding this project. It just accepts the plan," Chairman of the Board of Trustees Jeanie M. Vander Pyl told selectmen last night.
But with no article on the warrant, voters will not get the chance to approve those plans and the project will not move forward.
The plans call for a two-story 42,000 square foot facility to be built just beyond the Pop Warner football field on Quaker Meetinghouse Road, on the town’s so-called Golden Triangle property.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be $15 million and the town's share of that would be $7 million.
During Thursday night's presentation, the trustees urged selectmen to consider the benefits of building this library and the kind of economic growth it could spur within the Golden Triangle.
"We need something positive to happen. We have 3,000 visitors per week at the library. That's 200,000 visitors per year. What is that [pedestrian traffic] going to do to the value of the Golden Triangle," Ms. Vander Pyl said.
During the public forum of the meeting, resident Jane Logan of Main Street asked selectmen not to be swayed by the grant opportunity.
"If someone gave me half of a mansion, I still couldn't build a mansion because I can't afford the other half. We can't afford to fix the buildings we have. Turn down this library and don't even put it on the ballot. Give the taxpayers a break," she said.
Selectman James W. Pierce told the trustees that while he does not consider building a library a priority, he is in favor of letting the voters decide whether they approve the plans.
"Unfortunately, I believe this project is way over the top. In spite of my own personal prejudices, I have more faith in the voters," Mr. Pierce said just before making a motion to put an article on the upcoming Town Meeting warrant.
Selectman Linell M. Grundman agreed with Mr. Pierce. She also took issue with the state's offer.
"I have to agree with Jim. This is just over the top. This is a trophy for the state. But the state doesn't care that the $7 million that we have to come up with could jeopardize our public safety," Ms. Grundman said.
She also took issue with the cost of the project.
"When you first came to us, you were talking about $8 million. I'm bitterly disappointed. After watching the debt exclusion fail last year, you come back to us with a $15 million project. It's kind of a bait and switch," she said.
Ms. Grundman said, however, that the voters should have the final say and along with Mr. Pierce voted to put the article on the warrant.
Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Dana P. Barrette said he could not overlook the other priority needs facing the town.
"Our public safety buildings are at risk every time there is a north easter. We have a capital backlog. We have huge serious problems at the Wing school. There is the issue of beach erosion. It comes down to what is the priority. I just don't see how we as a board of selectmen can recommend this right now," he said.
"I love the effort but the time is just not right," added selectman John G. Kennan, Jr.
To add insult to injury, the trustees learned this week that they would not be able to put this article on the warrant by way of a citizen's petition. That deadline passed on March 1.
"We were never informed that the deadline for a citizen's petition article was March 1. We found out on March 2, when it was already too late," Ms. Vander Pyl said.
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