Letter: A Response To Sarah Marshall – Wishful Thinking Cannot Overcome The Facts Of Jones Library Cost Escalations

Last week Sarah Marshall, one of the founders of The Amherst Current, wrote an opinion piece about the reconstruction plans of the Jones Library in which she said “While recent estimates of the building cost are disconcertingly higher than expected, there is no need…..for Council act [sic] prematurely to slow or halt the project.” Her publication invites comments from the public and I submitted mine, hoping that her readers would have the opportunity to see a different point of view. They have not published my piece nor told me how I might change it so they would consider it for publication. Below is what I submitted to them.

Sarah Marshall wishes that the Jones Library reconstruction will be what the town needs and what it can afford, but wishful thinking cannot overcome the facts. This is no longer the Jones Library project that was on the ballot last year. The Library’s paid consultants and its own treasurer and chair of its budget committee have just told us that the building project will cost far more than the resources that will be available. To proceed as currently planned will require the Library both to deplete its endowment and to expect the taxpayers to pay a lot more. And implicit in their projections are two more financial facts: that inflation will increase those costs even more by the time construction begins, and that the depletion of the endowment means that day-to-day operating expenses will have to be paid for in some other way. To continue now will simply compound those problems. The silver lining here is that by reconsidering their plans, the Library leadership can give us a revised building more suited to the opportunities that new technologies are delivering to all libraries, one that will serve our year-round residents better in the future, and one that Amherst can afford to build and run.

Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal lives on Sunset Avenue in Amherst.  He was Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and of the former Development and Industrial Commission, and was a member of the Select Committee on Goals for Amherst.

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