by Rosemary Kofler
Editor’s note: This letter appeared previously in The Daily Hampshire Gazette
Amherst taxpayers have great reason to be concerned about the proposal to demolish parts of the Jones Library that were renovated only 20 years ago and to then expand the library footprint to 68,000 square feet. The library is clearly in need of renovation but not at the expense of major expansion.
At present, there is considerable wasted, nonfunctional space on the upper floors of the library, including unnecessary steps between small, poorly organized rooms. A reorganization and internal renovation within the existing footprint could solve many of the library’s challenges. It could create full accessibility and greatly improve the useful, functional space.
The expansion project is estimated to cost $35.8 million, plus $650,000 for additional costs for demolition of the 1993 renovation. Only $13.8 million of that cost would be covered by a state grant. It is shocking for the Jones Library Trustees to ask taxpayers for roughly $22 million to demolish and expand the library in view of the fact that the Town desperately needs new schools, another fire station and a safe public works building. Those projects have been on the joint capital building list for many years and are long overdue.
New schools are needed to provide for the health and safety of our children, teachers and auxiliary staff who now suffer in buildings that are moldy, lack natural lighting, and lack proper separation of classrooms.
Replacing the central fire station, built in 1929, with a modern facility which is more accessible to South Amherst, and replacing the 100-year-old public works building, would provide greater safety for the entire community.
The health of our children and the safety of all Amherst residents should be priorities over an extravagantly expanded library.
Rosemary Kofler is a resident of Amherst