By K.B. Sherman, Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Although there is still a long way to go and it is not at all a certainty that it will happen, an affirmative step was taken towards a major renovation project for the Shrewsbury Public Library at the Oct. 30 Special Town Meeting (STM). After hearing pros and cons, Town Meeting Members approved a request to transfer $50,000 from the $250,000 library improvement study account to pay for more planning of development and repairs.
Laurie Hogan, chair of the Library Trustees, gave a presentation in which she argued for the transfer as part of what the trustees believe are vital repairs needed for the town library. In the works since 1998, she explained that this project could expect to receive a $7.9 million provisional grant from the state's Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners next year. (That money is conditional; the voters must approve a plan for funding the remainder. The project was stymied last year when the voters defeated an earlier version of the improvement proposal at the ballot box.)
Hogan noted that the latest plan: shrank the proposed size of the library by 10 percent, the plan was now for repairs only, (the library children's section had become a health hazard due to age and mold), and that the abutting credit union building might also be incorporated into the renovations. The Board of Selectmen is scheduled to vote on the latest iteration of the plan at the 2013 spring Town Meeting, she added.
Brian Austin, Precinct 7, then rose for a counter-presentation. He told of having recently attended a Massachusetts Town Library Association meeting, where he learned that the proposed new Shrewsbury Library would, at $466 per square foot, cost 50 percent per square foot more than comparable town libraries. The final estimated cost of $18 million to $20 million compared unfavorably to similar libraries at $13 million to 14 million, he added. ?Austin said that money used for the new library would be taken from the town school budget and that additionally, electronic books were already making large, brick and mortar libraries obsolete. After he concluded, the Finance Committee nonetheless recommended passage of the article.
Mark Adler, Precinct 1, then rose to challenge Austin, claiming that it was untrue that the library would compromise school funding and that his arguments against the new library were false.
The article was then passed by the Town Meeting Members by a majority vote.
An article dealing with a change in the town dog control bylaw also generated much discussion at the STM.
The article proposed changing the language of the bylaw from “restraining device” to “leash” when it came to controlling dogs on public property. One resident rose to voice opposition, saying that electronic devices could do this job and be less confining to the animals.
Animal Control Officer Leona Pease responded that such electronic devices were insufficient and that she had seen dogs that were controlled with these devices still come within three feet of frightened townspeople. Another resident then related having been bitten by a dog that was allegedly being controlled via an “electronic leash.”
Pease reassured residents that the change in the bylaw would apply only to dogs on public property.
Joseph Milan, Precinct 1, countered that electronic control devices amounted to “torture” for the dog being “zapped,” and that he supported the change in the bylaw.
The article passed by a large majority.