Jul 30, 2014

Library Project Essentially Dead

Two City Council votes Tuesday night have stalled the Woburn Public Library expansion proposal.

Library Project Essentially Dead

Hours of discussion, heated debate and high temperatures filled Chambers Tuesday night, as the City Council, Mayor Scott Galvin and the Board of Library Trustees discussed .

The council, reacting to an order on its table from March, was charged with deciding whether to apply for a 2011 state grant to help fund a $24 million library expansion project. 

Mayor Scott Galvin emphasized that he would not support the $24 million project, but was willing to support a smaller, $15 million project using a grant from 2008. The deadline to accept that grant is June 16.

"This [$24 million] project is not going anywhere," said City Council President Paul Denaro during Tuesday's discussion. "We have a few more days [to compromise]... We might be able to save this thing before the 16th. Other than that, it's dead." 

Mayor Galvin told the council Tuesday that he feels like a library project is needed, but not at the scope presented by the Board of Library Trustees. 

"I think we’re all working for the same end result," said the mayor. "I don’t think we should be battling one another on this. I think we’re all working to the same end and I think that at the end of the day we can get there."

According to Mayor Galvin's proposal, the city would put forth $5.5 million for a $15 million project that would utilize nearly $3 million in Library Trustees fund-raising, a $4.7 million grant and $3.5 million in historic renovation tax credits.

The mayor said Tuesday that the city would put forward a $15 million bond, but would not pay more than $5.5 million for the project. 

"You stand here tonight giving the Library Trustees and their [patrons $5.5 million,]" said Alderman Richard Gately to the mayor. "I applaud you for that. I think the option is more than feasible."

Galvin told officials Tuesday that he felt like he needed the support of the Library supporters, as well the city, for the $15 million project to move forward.  

"We need the cooperation of City Council and my office as well," said Mayor Galvin. "It is definitely a three-way street."

After briefly discussing the project, the City Council voted 5-4 in favor of tabling the library topic until the end of the meeting. About an hour-and-a-half later, it was back on the table. 

Library Trustee Janet Rabbitt called Mayor Galvin's $5.5 million offer "generous," but asked that it be applied to the $24 million proposal and not the $15 million idea.

According to Rabbitt, the $15 million proposal, which was drawn up prior to the 2008 grant award, "had a lot of problems." After the problems were realized, the library worked on a new plan—the $24 million proposal. 

"I think the $24 million project is too expensive," said Galvin. "[The $15 million project] is where I stand. And I think that’s very fair to the city… If that’s not enough for people, I don’t know what to tell you."

"We can revise [the original $15 million plan]," added the mayor. "We can find a way to make our plan not deficient."

But Rabbitt said the Library Trustees have not seen the mayor's proposal and could not make a decision on whether it's acceptable or not.

"I have to say, I’m a little surprised," said Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen. "I thought, I really thought, because there was going to be a commitment to working forward that people would be elated. I’m shocked. To hear the mayor say I’m going to bring down a bond, let’s accept this grant and do what we’ve been talking about doing for 14 months… To hear him say that tonight, that he’s willing to do that, I really thought we’d all be dancing in the streets... 

"The bond will be there," she added. "We can have a library. We can have it. Why aren’t you saying, 'Yay?' I don’t understand."

Alderman Rosa DiTucci, who has supported the library expansion as a member of the City Council, said that she understood the $3.5 million in tax credits would only be applied to the project if $8 to 10 million were spent in renovations to the existing, historic building, leaving $5 million for the actual expansion project.

"I don’t know if we could do that even if we handed out picks and shovels to everyone in Woburn," she said. 

Both DiTucci and Alderman Ray Drapeau questioned why Galvin was not in favor of spending $5.5 million on the Library Trustees' $24 million proposal.

"If the Library Trustees have proposed $24 million, but still aren’t asking you for more than $5.5 million, how does that deter you from wanting to support that?" asked Drapeau. "You're still only spending $5.5 million."

"$24 million is too much money," responded Galvin. "It’s irresponsible; it’s not going to happen."

After more than two hours of total discussion Tuesday, City Council opted to vote for applying for a 2011 state grant that would allow them to move forward on the $24 million project, but cap city spending at $5.5 million.

That motion was approved by a 5-4 vote with Aldermen Mike Anderson, Rosa DiTucci, Rich Haggerty, Mark Gaffney and Ray Drapeau voting in favor.

But when voting on whether to put forward the 2011 grant application, with the $5.5 million spending cap, the board turned it down with Aldermen Mike Anderson, Richard Gately, Mike Raymond, Paul Denaro and Darlene Mercer-Bruen voting to squash the application. Aldermen Ray Drapeau, Rosa DiTucci, Mark Gaffney and Rich Haggerty voted in favor of moving forward with the 2011 grant application.

With those votes done, the only issue still at hand was voting on whether to accept Mayor Galvin's $15 million proposal, and the state grant already on the table, which needed to be decided upon before June 16. But City Council opted to adjourn at 10:53 p.m. and did not discuss the $15 million proposal further. 




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