$70,000 grant may have to be repaid if building does not meet requirements
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — The Board of Trustees of the Meredith Public Library are expected to reach a decision about where to construct a new library in next several weeks. Meanwhile, the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program has expressed its concern about the future of the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library, which has served the town since 1901.
Duncan McNeish, now in his 34th year as a trustee, said Monday that he expects the board to reaffirm its intention to build a new library and choose a site for the facility in the next several weeks. Earlier this year, the trustees hosted several public meetings at which the structural deficiencies and spacial constraints of the existing building were presented along with conceptual designs of a single story library built on a 4-acre lot with adequate space for parking. Since then, the trustees have considered several locations, including a 4-acre parcel at the junction of Barnard Ridge Road and Pleasant Street set aside by the Conservation Commission in the course of its initiative to add some 200 acres to the Page Pond Forest.
Meanwhile, on July 29, Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program wrote to the library trustees to say that the directors of the program were "taken aback to learn of the possible plan to relocate the library."
She reminded the trustees that in the course of seeking a $70,000 grant toward improvements to the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library in 2013 they assured the program that the library "was, and would continue to be, an important part of the fabric of downtown Meredith."
Taylor said on the strength of such assurances the grant was awarded and that "the current proposed change in the use of the Meredith Library building is directly opposite that expected when the grant was made." The board of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, she continued "strongly urges the Meredith Library Trustees to reconsider the option of retaining the library in its historic downtown building and location." Moreover, Taylor added that should the trustees "pursue the change in use," the town must advise the program "to be sure the requirements and possible costs triggered by a change in use of the building are well understood."
Taylor's letter came as no surprise. Earlier this summer, when the library trustees advised the Board of Selectmen of their intentions, attorney Andrew Livernois explained that if the library building were not put to another public purpose, the town could be required to repay the $70,000 grant. Likewise, McNeish said that the trustees have every intention of working with the selectmen to put the library building to an appropriate public purpose and maintain its architectural integrity to ensure the town neither incurs unnecessary costs nor compromises its relationship with the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.
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