To The Daily Sun,
Although I am a Meredith Library trustee, in this letter to the editor, I speak only for myself and not for the other trustees.
I have been trying, within the library board and its library planning committee, to make several important points that still have not been seriously considered and acted upon: The need to fully inform the public of the comparative costs of the alternate site locations for a rebuilt or entirely new library and to poll the public to determine what our citizens want to do.
I am under pressure to side with the board majority and to ignore these positions, but I have been elected to serve the public and feel compelled to insist they be given the opportunity to determine what we will do in providing for a new library.
The citizens of Meredith have, recently through the U.S. mail, received information about problems faced in keeping the Meredith Library rebuilding in its present Main Street location. I voted for the copy sent out, but the trustees, in my opinion, have not fully dealt with the broader problem which the community faces: The historic value and location of our present building.
Summarizing the recent mailing: To stay in the present location, with a one-level fully accessible handicapped facility and adequate parking, will cost at least $1.4 million more than an entirely new site, and probably closer to $2 million. Even then, it would not offer the operational and administrative advantages of an entirely new "green" or near-green building and, thus, face the town with thousands of dollars for annual operating costs, to be raised by real estate taxes, for decades into the future.
Any remodeling of the present building will require two emergency exits from each of the seven floor levels. At a minimum, this requires the removal of the present main stair core and replacement with a new fire resistant staircase and an elevator with entrances to all seven levels, and a fire resistant staircase and, perhaps, an elevator in another location. It would also require sprinklers throughout the building, and thus a new water entrance from the town system. Further, it would require insulation upgrades to save energy costs. To get near adequate parking, two adjacent parcels of land must be acquired and a huge ledge removed.
In addition, the present library must be moved to a temporary location during construction or, alternatively, squeezed into a new addition pending renovation of the old building, then moved again to occupy the whole new facility. The complete rebuilding in the present location would take up to two years longer than building an entirely new building in a new location.
The argument to move from the present Main Street location, to save up to $2 million, is quite compelling, except for the fact that the trustees have not (contrary to a promise from the start of the planning process) measured the preferences of Meredith citizens as to the location of a new or rebuilt Meredith Public Library. The trustees have based their decision to move on a completely inadequate number of citizen surveys.
What is it that I am asking? Consistent with the library trustees promise at the start of the library planning process, I continue to seek a robust public discussion about potential sites, including the present location, and a community-wide poll to discover the will of the Meredith citizens.
My promise to the public has been to kept an open mind as to location. I have pleaded with others to do the same. Presently, the trustees and the library planning committee do not know the total costs of the other two sites under consideration. How can a decision be made without knowing the comparative facts? To know and compare the total estimated cost of each site is to be fair to the public that will pay the bills. My promise to the public is to see that they get a complete picture of the cost of each of the three alternatives, to seek a robust public discussion and the opportunity to vote in a community wide poll as to which of the three alternatives they favor.
In the next few months, perhaps weeks, there will be a second mailing giving full information on the other two alternatives; and still a few weeks later, I hope, there will be a third mailing summarizing each of the three sites and the opportunity for citizens to engage in a poll on the three alternative locations. The results will be cleared through a meeting with the Selectboard and subject to a vote of the library trustees and library planning committee. We seek a consensus between the public, the Selectboard and the trustees.
There are citizens who favor keeping our library on Main Street. They need to engage in the community dialogue more fully. I have not made up my mind because I do not yet have full information on each of the three sites. Presently, I seek to be loud and clear: Give us all the facts, give the community an opportunity to engage in a robust discussion including the view that our beautiful and historic building should be our new library site, and offer a community-wide poll to discover the will of our citizens. I am a distinct minority on the library trustees, but asking that the public, in possession of the facts, have an opportunity to vote on where our library will be located.
In the meantime, I ask that the public, the library planning committee (including trustees) keep an open mind, engage in a robust dialogue and support the will of the community as revealed by the poll. Before the poll is taken, I will with full information, along with the public, make my views known.
Miller C. Lovett