July 2017

Penny Wise Pound Foolish

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Well, another month goes by and Kent Memorial Library is still not open. As someone who, beginning in 2003, spent two years on the Library Space Needs Committee, a group of diverse Suffield citizens appointed by the First Selectman, to address the library’s space constraints and lack of compliance with the Americans with Disability Act’s requirements, I am more agitated than the average citizen. For those of you new to town in the past 12 years, allow me to enlighten you. The above referred to Committee was the second of its kind to come up with a solution. I do not know why the first committee’s recommendation was not acted upon but knowing Suffield, my guess is cost.

Several years later, the powers that be determined that the situation was getting worse and established the committee which I chaired. There were three sites proposed: Bridge Street School, the present Kent Library site, and the site on which the old ambulance building sat on Mountain Road. We hired architects and construction managers to evaluate each site, sent out RFPs, and worked with the state to determine what grants could be had. Because of the cost of building new, and a contingent in town who felt that the historical architectural significance of the original building should be retained, we extensively investigated renovating Kent.

From the get-go this was a BAD idea for all the reasons that have come to pass. Public forums were held to inform and gain citizen imput, and numerous newspaper articles were written. Our committee’s recommendation was to raze Kent and rebuild on the site. Alas, the new First Selectman at the time thought that the cost of $11.05M, which included $2M for an underground parking garage, was too much so he appointed a new Library Evaluation and Planning AdHoc Committee which came up with the same recommendation to raze Kent at roughly the same cost, if you exclude the parking garage which was expendable, and account for inflation.

The First Selectman campaigned against building a new library and a referendum to build new was voted down. It was decided to renovate because it was cheaper. Since then we have spent roughly $6.5M to do repairs and address ADA requirements and environmental concerns which arose from the renovations, and we still have no idea of when the PCB containment strategies will be sufficient to allow us access, or how much this will cost.

Additionally, we have less space than we had at Kent and significantly less space than we could have had with a new building. We are required to spend $10K annually to test air quality. We have been out of the building since October 2014 with no end in sight. Yet another case of Suffield being penny wise and pound foolish. Maybe when you get the same recommendation from different citizen committees who have spent years researching the issue, you should take heed.

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