By Joan Goodchild, Community Reporter
In October 2011, voters rejected a measure to approve a temporary debt exclusion of nearly $11 million that would have been used to fund a portion of a proposed renovation and expansion of the building. The measure lost by 158 votes.
At the March 12 forum, Library Director Ellen Dolan gave an overview of proposed changes to the design. Initially, the $18.7 million proposed renovation and expansion plan included maintaining a section of the building constructed in 1903 and replacing an addition built in 1979. The plans also called for adding on to the current building by using adjacent property the town purchased last year from the Shrewsbury Federal Credit Union (SFCU).
The temporary exclusion would have funded only a portion of the project; town officials had also expected to receive a $7.96 million grant from the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) to fund the balance. Dolan said she still anticipates receiving the grant money that will likely be available in 2014.
Dolan said that following the rejection of the project last year, town officials have negotiated with the MPLCP for a 10 percent reduction in the size of the project, which will bring the design down to 38,490 square feet. The original design proposal called for more than 40,000.
The crowd that turned out to speak to the Board of Library Trustees was overwhelming filled with pro-library project supporters.
Tom Biggins of Paton Road noted that when he regularly walks around town, the library always appears to be busy.
“The library is the busiest building in the center of town,” he said. “I see toddlers going in and I see older students – sometimes half of the school is there – as well as adults.”
Biggins, like many others in attendance, said he hoped a project to expand the library would move forward.
“We should stand on the shoulders of the people who preceded us and have the courage to build these buildings,” he said.
Johanna Musselman of Stony Brook Lane said the library was more than just a place that held books.
“Not everyone realizes that the building is a place for everyone,” she said. “It is a de-facto community center.”
Others who spoke cited concerns about the future of libraries in general and about what impact digital media, such as iPads and e-book readers, would have on library space requirements.
Former Shrewsbury Selectman Benjamin Tartaglia, who in the past has voiced opposition to the project, said he would support some kind of renovation and expansion, but wanted to see a smaller footprint for the design. He also said he was opposed to destroying the SFCU building to make way for a new library building.
“That gets everyone's hackles up,” Tartaglia said. “I think if you find a way to preserve it, you might get a lot more support.”
Library officials said they will continue to listen to opinions from the public for several more weeks. To offer feedback contact Dolan at [email protected].