Library's Expansion  | Newspaper Articles

Audience pleads to councilors to approve $1.3 million for Leominster library
Matthew Bruun, Worcester Telegram &Gazette, September 26, 2006

LEOMINSTER - A multigenerational crowd made impassioned pleas to the City Council last night seeking support for $1.3 million to complete the renovation and expansion of the public library.

But councilors also heard from residents concerned about increasing property taxes and the effect those hikes will have on senior citizens.As debate continued in the council chambers last night, it appeared there was a consensus that the $1.3 million was a necessary appropriation, but how it would be made was still to be determined.

"We've been put between a rock and a hard place and I'm not happy with that," Councilor Dennis A. Rosa, chairman of the Finance Committee, told his colleagues.

The building is 80 percent complete, he said, and the last $1.3 million is a necessary appropriation. But he won't support raising taxes to make it.

"I will not put this funding on the backs of the taxpayers," Mr. Rosa said. "Enough is enough."

He then asked Councilor David E. Rowlands to share his own recommendation.

Mr. Rowlands said the council was in a precarious position, since other major building projects loom on the horizon - including a new high school and police station - and officials must be credible when looking to the public for support.

He said he resented the "eleventh hour" request for such a major appropriation and criticized Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella for not sharing more information with the council.

"That's not good government," Mr. Rowlands said. "That's not checks and balances."

Mr. Mazzarella did not attend last night's meeting.

The overrun has been blamed ledge in the construction area, the discovery of hidden asbestos in a portion of the old building that was demolished and extensive water remediation.

Mr. Rowlands suggested an alternative way to raise the $1.3 million. He said the city should take $650,000 from the stabilization fund, to which the council added more than $3 million earlier this year. Another $330,000 could be raised from the auction of city-owned property near Sky View Middle School.

That sum, he continued, could be augmented by $200,000 from the city's "free cash" or unexpended surpluses, with the remaining $100,000 to come from the library's continuing fundraising effort.

"The promise that was made in 2003 will be kept," Mr. Rowlands said, recalling a pledge made when councilors approved $7.8 million for the library project that local spending had been completed.

Councilor Claire M. Freda questioned her colleague's proposal, saying Mr. Mazzarella would have requested such a means of raising the money if it were a practical solution.

"The stabilization account is clearly for an emergency if the taxes can't be paid," Mrs. Freda said, adding the mayor would have to request approval to dip into those reserves.

Further, she added, using that money could affect the city's bond rating and hurt its ability to borrow for municipal projects.

More than 30 residents were in council chambers last night.

Mary Jane Cuddahy and Peter Latchis suggested the library consider charging fees for some services to raise the necessary money.

Rollin Lane, a former councilor, said rising property taxes meant he probably couldn't live out his days in his own home. The city was forcing its seniors to choose between macaroni and hamburger, he said.

Many speakers favored the project, however.

Paul Wolfe, a freshman at Fitchburg State College, said library programs kept him out of trouble during his high school years and set him on the path to being a published author.

Denise Labenski said she had saved thousands of dollars through items borrowed from the library, and said its resources had helped her own daughter in high school.

Jeremiah Greene called the library "a focal point of intellectual fertilization in the community" and said the latest financial request would seem insignificant when judged against the long-term benefits of the library.



Project Overview
Plans and Drawings
Temporary Library

Construction Blog

Building Committee
Newspaper Articles