Library Leaders Disagree On Aiding Schools, Viability Of Building Project



Jones Library News Highlights For The Week Of March 13, 2023

Conflicting Views Color Budget Committee Meeting
A philosophical rift was evident at the March 14 meeting of the Jones Library Budget Committee. On one side is Board of Trustees Treasurer Bob Pam, who has taken a pragmatic and risk-averse approach to fulfilling his fiduciary responsibilities, and a holistic view of where the Jones Library fits into Town of Amherst needs and services. On the other side are Library Director Sharon Sharry and the remaining five trustees who have adopted a more library-centric perspective toward funding, and a do-or-die position on the financially troubled renovation-expansion project.

At Tuesday’s meeting Pam announced the welcome news that the Town of Amherst FY24 appropriation for library operations would be upped by 0.5%, or $10,746 higher than previously anticipated. Due to favorable state aid predictions, the Town Manager has revised upward his recommended budget increase for all departments, from 2.5% to 3%.

Given the $10,746 unexpected windfall, Pam floated the idea of directing $10,000 of library funds to help the financially struggling elementary school libraries which stand to lose three full-time library paraeducators due to budget cuts.

“I don’t have a mechanism for that… we need the money,” asserted Sharry.  “I don’t want to give away ten thousand dollars,” she added, “but that’s just me.”

Trustee Lee Edwards weighed in, “I think this would be a policy change.  If you want to bring it up before the trustees, I think that’s the place to take it.”

Jones Library Budget Committee. Source:

Jones Treasurer’s Observation On Odds Of Building Project Moving Forward Draws Rebuke
Treasurer Pam has consistently raised concerns about a $10 million Jones Library building project budget gap and the risk it represents to the library’s $8+ million endowment. Noting four Amherst building projects competing for capital funds and the average $478 per year property tax hike currently needed to fund the new Fort River Elementary School that will be decided by a town wide referendum on May 2, Pam offered an assessment of the library project that was not bullish enough for his Budget Committee colleagues.

Remarked Pam, “I don’t know that it has changed anything drastically, but I would say that the percentage probability of the project going forward is probably down a few…”

Before he could finish his statement, Trustee Edwards who co-chairs the Library Capital Campaign jumped in.  “I do not think that this is an appropriate subject for the Budget Committee to be taking up,” she exclaimed.

Pam countered, “The options for meeting financial obligations to the town involve two different issues and so you need to at least think about what are the probabilities of each of those.” The ability for the building project to move forward will depend on whether the Capital Campaign can raise the funds to cover the project budget gap, and whether the Town Council will authorize additional funding when project construction costs are better known.

Responded Edwards, “I think our job is to think about what is best for the library and how the budget for the library works.”

Director Sharry offered her view. “You’re absolutely wrong, Bob. What we are asking the town for is $15.8 million dollars and that number has not changed. If this project gets voted down, whether it’s November, December, January, February, whatever it is, it’s going to cost a hell of a lot more than $15.8 million.”

She continued, “The Capital Campaign Committee is working its tail off and they are 66% of the way there, so no, I disagree with you 150%, Bob.”

Pam asked Sharry to clarify her claim that the amount of gifts and pledges that the Capital Campaign has raised, $4.6 million, is “66% of the way there.”

Sharry explained, we need to raise $7 million in time for the Town Council vote [in November]. That is the number that we agreed on with the town that would be a reasonably good show that would give Town Council the confidence that we could raise the remaining funds.”

“That’s the first time I’ve heard those numbers,” said Pam.

“It’s been in charts, it’s been in meetings,” Sharry replied.

Owner’s Project Manager Craig DiCarlo Leaving
The Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) was disappointed to learn on March 16 that this would be the final meeting for Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) Craig DiCarlo of Colliers Project Leaders. He is leaving Colliers for another job opportunity.

The OPM is charged with coordinating the many contractors and partners engaged in the design, bidding and construction of the building project, and keeping it on schedule and under budget. JLBC members appeared to agree that DiCarlo has been a trusted and stabilizing influence on a project beset with ballooning, inflation-driven cost escalation.

Colliers Associate Director Tim Alix announced that he would be supporting Construction Representative Dan Daisy in taking over as OPM after Daisy finished up current commitments and came up to speed on the Jones Library project.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman voiced uneasiness. “I have a lot of concerns about the transitions we’ve gone through with Colliers. I mean, we started with Ken (corporate liaison Ken Guyette), we’ve got Craig, we’re now going to Tim and then Dan. I don’t like all these transitions that are happening.”

Alix assured that Colliers has overlap in project management expertise and the company will make sure there are no gaps in the transition.

JLBC Chair Austin Sarat noted, “I will say we have greatly appreciated the work that Craig has done. We’ve greatly appreciated his responsiveness, his sense of the intricacies and nuances of the project, and we will look forward to the same level of responsiveness and attentiveness to the intricacies and nuances of the project from Dan as he acclimates himself to the project.”

Owner’s Project Manager Craig DiCarlo. Source:
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32 thoughts on “Library Leaders Disagree On Aiding Schools, Viability Of Building Project

  1. I question the veracity of the continued assertion that the town is only on the hook for $15.8 million for the library expansion project.
    Even in the highly unlikely scenario that 1) the Library’s fundraising group manages to raise another $10 million, 2) construction bids come in at or below the last cost estimate, and 3) interest rates at the time of borrowing is under 4%, the Town’s taxpayers are still going to be paying at least $24 million for this project. That’s at least $1.1 million in debt service every year for 20 years — property tax revenues that could go to other capital projects or to paying competitive school/town employee salaries and COLAs. In presumably-now-very-outdated Library Project Cash Flow projections issued in September 2022, interest alone was projected at around $9 million, which I assume the Trustees are expecting the Town to pay? [And it could be that that Cash Flow Analysis was based on the very old $36 million project cost estimate? Source:—Jones-Library—September-19-2022 ]

    I appreciate Trustee Bob Pam’s realism and pragmatism. He is not alone in doubting the viability of this project. Even the MBLC wrote that they won’t give the second grant payment until after the town signs a contract with a building contractor – an indication that they too have concerns about viability. I’m just sorry your words are falling on deaf ears, Bob.

  2. The current March 19th Jones Library Building Project Newsletter contains the following misleading reason that the Trustees insist on staying the course with their push to renovate and expand the Jones Library:

    ” . . . the need to keep faith with the more than 65% of the voters who endorsed the Jones Library Building project at the ballot box.”

    The only time this project was presented to Amherst residents for a vote was November 2, 2021. Of the town’s 16,187 registered voters, only 5,043 (31%) choose to weigh in. Of those, 3,231 voted yes and this is where the highly touted 65% figure comes from, when, I fact, only 20% of Amherst’s registered voters voiced their approval.

  3. Not only did fewer than a third of the town’s voters participate in the November 2021 referendum, but the public was operating without the benefit of important information: that the annual Jones Library attendance had fallen by more than 40% over the previous fifteen years, and that trustees had received a recommendation from a professional library consultant describing ways to reconfigure existing space to achieve programming needs. These facts were withheld by the library project leaders, and the Town Council neglected to do their homework before committing to a $35.3 million borrowing authorization — the largest for a capital project in the town’s history at the time.

    Leading up to the referendum, library patrons were continually bombarded by propagandist newsletters explaining why the town needed to support the library expansion. Advocacy communications like these by public employees are prohibited by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Nevertheless, more than one-third of the voters voted “no” in the library referendum. The number voting “yes” did not meet the Massachusetts standard of a two-thirds supermajority required to authorize municipal borrowing.

    And now the library project finds itself more than $10 million over budget.

  4. The fact is that 65% of the voters who chose to vote, did vote in favor of the project.

    That’s an impressive majority.

    The fact is that the Trustees just voted unanimously in favor of the project yet again. Why wasn’t that reported in the article?

    The library project will make this town better. It will help our students succeed, it will help New Americans gain access to important skills, and will positively impact thousands of children, families, job seekers, scholars and others in myriad ways each year.

    I look forward to the day when we can all gather in the Jones to celebrate what happens when a community rallies behind a well-thought out, well-designed, and highly needed capital project.

  5. “That’s an impressive majority.”

    1.) How many were in the upper income levels of those that voted?

    “The fact is that the Trustees just voted unanimously in favor of the project yet again. Why wasn’t that reported in the article?”

    2.) Oh, but it has was in other articles. And, given their posturing until now, why wouldn’t they?

    “The library project will make this town better.”

    3.) In what way? How many year-round residents (have actually ever) use the facility “on-site” as a library? How many use it as a venue (interestingly) for services other town departments offer or could?

    “It will help our students succeed”.

    4.) More than an adequate, healthy and safe new school, or the retention of school librarians/aides?

    “….will help New Americans gain access to important skills, and will positively impact thousands of children, families, job seekers, scholars and others in myriad ways each year.

    See #3

    “I look forward to the day when we can all gather in the Jones to celebrate what happens when a community rallies behind a well-thought out, well-designed, and highly needed capital project.”

    4.) So do the many of who oppose the current plan we believe to be none of those.

    James Murphy

  6. One could call this number an “impressive majority” within the specific context of those who voted on this project. But there is another “impressive majority” that has not really been discussed anywhere: The 69% of Amherst voters who chose NOT to weigh in on this question. What were their reasons for not voting on the library project? Were they not patrons of the Jones? Do they not read? Did they not care either way? Were they unaware of the project? Did they feel that their vote would not make a difference? Were they too harried with the necessities of keeping a roof over their families’ heads to even consider voting for or against this project? When I hear the term “impressive majority” that favors a major and expensive community project, I would expect widespread community support, and this is the opposite. Why did this equally “impressive majority” fail to make known their wishes about the Jones? I think that is the question we should be asking.

  7. Those who voted for the library will not get the design they were promised nor will the modified design be delivered at a cost close to what was promised. Is it possible that many of those who voted to support the library expansion would vote for it again under the current circumstances of escalating construction costs, “design engineering” subtractions from the original plan, and increasing austerity in town that says we can’t afford to pay our educators a living wage, meet the needs of our seniors, repair our roads and sidewalks, etc..? I for one would welcome another referendum on the issue.

    And let me add that I support making the much needed and much postponed repairs of the Jones and also a renovation, such as the one proposed in the suppressed Popp report, ( that would give us a refreshed and updated facility within the existing footprint at a much more affordable price.

  8. If the Jones Library, Inc. were to somehow issue municipal bonds outside the taxing authority of the City known as The Town of Amherst, initial offerings by the bond market would be so far below par as to yield well-above-normal to investors, and would it surprise anyone if those bonds would be unrated, a.k.a. “junk” bonds?

    Maybe a thoughtful investigative journalist could share the Jones Library, Inc. financials with some seasoned independent bond investors and see what they think?

  9. A commenter above pointed out that “Advocacy communications like these by public employees are prohibited by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.”

    What are the sanctions for public employees having made such advocacy communications?

    Are those public employees still in office?

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  10. I would love for those who continue to criticize the Jones Library project by stating that an alternative plan would be cheaper to the local taxpayer to provide tangible evidence supporting that position.

    To you critics out there I pose the following…

    1. How long do you think it would take to create a different design for the Jones?

    2. What do you think the cost of that re-design process would be? On what evidence do you base this claim?

    3. What do you think the cost of renovation would be? What evidence can you bring to support your cost estimate?

    4. What sources of funding would be available for those costs? How would you access those sources?

    5. How long would it take for the project to be completed? What supports this timeframe?

    6. What would you do to help?

    The current Jones plan is an excellent one that will make our library much better. No other plans exists, and the plan is continuing to be refined.

    And 65% of the voters exercised their franchise in favor of the plan. That is the only evidence we have.

  11. Thank you, Jeff, for mentioning that : The number voting “yes” did not meet the Massachusetts standard of a two-thirds supermajority required to authorize municipal borrowing. For some reason, our way of doing things changed under the new Charter. Under Town Meeting, Amherst required a 2/3 resident vote to approve a 2/3 municipal borrowing vote if the vote was challenged. The new Charter gives more power to the Council than to the people by requiring only a majority vote of the people to approve a 2/3 municipal borrowing vote made by the Council. Let’s change that back when the Charter is reviewed next year.

  12. I enjoy spending time working in various libraries around Western Mass, and the deferred maintenance of the Jones Library is obvious, unfortunate, and seems intentional. I have never once in 30 years felt the building was too small to accommodate users; or felt it ever got too crowded. I agree with the many people who say we much more desperately need the new elementary school, public works building, fire station, and roads less Baja-like.

    I also agree that a very small number of intransigent people are making major unpopular and unresponsive decisions on this matter, with a large degree of opacity and militance. Nobody is saying we don’t need a nice library in Amherst. I do think that it would be a nice library if it had been better maintained. I think we could be done with a sensible update, if the process had been more fair and less dubious.

    We have enough baloney in our world for it to not be happening bigly about a library in our home town.

    I vote to put a pin in the whole library process, and start over doing it with collaboration and budget consciousness.

  13. Darcy Dumont is incorrect about the popular vote threshold. Under the prior charter, a simple majority was required of the popular vote AND 2/3 of the legislature…Town Meeting…

    The same standard exists today.

  14. Matt, are you and your PR firm still being paid by the library trustees to represent their interests? I remember quite clearly that after the first meeting I attended on a potential renovation, you came up to me – a complete stranger – and began chatting about what an important and necessary project it was. I think it was Hilda Greenbaum who noticed this and explained to me that you had been hired to tout the project. I was actually shocked – why would a town entity hire a professional firm to do that?

  15. As you well know, Christina, we are not a PR firm.

    I am writing as a 25+ year resident and taxpayer, who loves the Jones Library, and believes strongly in this project.

    I find it interesting that you have not bothered to address the questions I put forth above.

  16. Hey Matt, take a look at section 2.43 in the 2018 bylaws that were in force before the new Charter took effect:

    2.43 Determination of result
    A question put to the voters at large under the provisions of this section shall be determined by a vote of the same proportion of voters voting thereon as would have been required by law had the question been finally determined at a representative town meeting. No action of the representative town meeting shall be reversed unless a number of registered voters equal to at least eighteen (18) percent of all the active registered voters shall so vote.

    The bylaws gave primacy to the voters of the town in a referendum. They would act as the legislative body as long as 18% of registered voters participated.

    The new charter took away this power from the people and concentrated it in the 13-member Town Council. Darcy is spot on.

  17. Matt Blumenfeld, please be honest with us. In the Amherst Indy on March 24 Christina Platt asked you: “Matt, are you and your PR firm still being paid by by the library trustees to represents their interests?” Fifty minutes later, you replied: “As you well know, Christina, we are not a PR firm. I am writing as a 25+ year resident and taxpayer, who loves the Jones Library, and believes strongly in this project.”

    Let’s not debate what “PR” means, Matt. Here’s what the website of Financial Development Agency, Inc. says: You are a “Principal” of the firm. The firm is a “Resource Development Counsel”. Among its clients is “Jones Library, Inc. Amherst, MA”. Its assignments for the Jones Library are “Fund Raising Plan[,] Development Program Upgrade[,] Event Planning, Building Program, Feasibility Study, Capital Campaign”.

    Yes, you love the Jones and many of us do. But many of us who love the Jones believe that it will be unable to complete its renovation as planned and as budgeted. As a Principal in a firm paid to represent the Jones and achieve its “Fund Raising”, “Development Program” and “Building Program” goals, your professional ethics require you to disclose your engagement status every time you speak or write to advance the interests of your client, whether it be at an official governmental meeting, when presenting your sense of what the facts might be and challenging others, or when trying to influence voters in an upcoming election. Amherst citizens deserve this candor from you, and so does the Jones Library.

  18. Darcy is incorrect about the bond issue.

    And I again appeal to you Jeff, Christina, Ken, Art and other who oppose the project – please provide evidence of a better solution and answer the questions I posed above.

  19. Matt:
    Since you asked, I will share my answers:

    Q: How long do you think it would take to create a different design for the Jones?
    Rather than embark on a giant expansion/shutdown/gutting, I prefer steadily fixing all the deferred maintenance, and execute a continuous improvement plan that re-purposes and renovates spaces within the current footprint.
    Q: What do you think the cost of that re-design process would be? On what evidence do you base this claim?
    There would be continuous budgeted renovations and maintenance, and we’d aim to find public funding and private donations to subsidize, but it would be nothing like a $50mm++ overhaul.
    Q: What do you think the cost of renovation would be? What evidence can you bring to support your cost estimate?
    The cost would be what an annual budget can support. Rather than expand and then demolish it in 30 years, fix things on a priority basis, and beef up that line item with public funds and private donations.
    Q: What sources of funding would be available for those costs? How would you access those sources?
    The plan would consider what public funding or private donations there would be; there would be naming opportunities for rooms and programs; but it would not be a plan that follows the gift money more than follow an affordable plan.
    Q: How long would it take for the project to be completed? What supports this timeframe?
    As opposed to the current planned 2-year shutdown, this would be a continuous renovation plan, aiming at no shutdown and gradual completion of sections of the library, open during the ongoing work. Maybe the first space improvement project (as opposed to roof, HVAC, etc.) are the unused spaces, that could be brought online with needed programming. Another benefit of this perspective is that we would not aim to build a library that serves 50,000, when we only have 19,000 cardholders and a dwindling user base.
    Q: What would you do to help?
    I would be glad to participate in listening and brainstorming sessions, in a process as collaborative as the elementary school was, and thinking about best ways to provide needed programming in that building, but not limited to that building (ie: maybe repurpose Wildwood for some of that).

    (Also, Matt, I agree with everyone who suggests you correctly identify your professional role in the library process. You even avoid mentioning that comments herein prove you have a financial stake in the outcome, not just as an interested Amherst resident.)

  20. Thanks, Christina, for highlighting the point that Matt Blumenfeld is the head of the FDA PR Marketing firm hired by Jones Library Trustees and paid to market the library project to residents. Mr. Blumenfeld’s PR firm has made considerable money on (and will continue to make money on) the Jones Library project the longer the process drags on. Whether the term “public relations marketing”, or “fundraising” is used, the library project is a “golden egg” for FDA. It is stunningly disingenuous of Mr. Blumenfeld to claim his primary interest in the library project is as “a town resident who loves the library.” At some point, it may become clear that the Demolition-Expansion of Jones Library is a wasteful, extravagant, unnecessary vanity project that promises only to strip the town budget of funds for the other major capital projects and funds needed to repave our deteriorated streets and sidewalks. A shift to Plan B, a full renovation of Jones Library within its existing footprint (saving all that demolition debris from the landfill) would be a welcome sign of fiduciary and environmental sanity. Mr. Blumenfeld could then turn the attention of his PR marketing firm to its next job.

  21. Our beloved, historic 1928 Jones Library is on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Historic preservation law therefore requires that if State money is to be spent on a proposed project, then “as early as possible in the planning stages,” the project’s design must undergo a review and comment process by the Massachusetts Historic Commission. See Mass. General Laws, Chapter 9, Section 27C, and Title 605, Code of Mass. Regulations (CMR), Section 6.05, subsections (c) 13 and (d) 21.

    “Adverse effects” include “the destruction or alteration of all or part of a State Register property….” It thus covers interior as well as exterior “destruction or alteration. ” 950 CMR § 71.05 (a). The purpose of the Historic Commission’s review is to modify the design, if needed, to “eliminate, minimize, or mitigate” those “adverse effects.” 950 CMR § 71.02.

    The Jones Library Trustees and Town Council have already spent State money on their Jones Library demolition/expansion project. This is from the first 20% — $2.7 million — of their construction grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). There’s more to come from that grant, as well as one or more grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Commission.

    Yet, in the nearly seven (7) years that they have been considering this project’s design, the Trustees and Town have never submitted it to the Historic Commission for its mandatory statutory review and probable modification. Evidently Collier’s International, their State-required Owner’s Project Manager, has similarly fallen down on its legally-required job of “providing independent and competent advice on all aspects of a building project.” 605 CMR § 6.02.

    Toni Cunningham points out above that the MBLC is withholding the second tranche of its construction grant until the Town and Trustees have signed a contract with a builder. This seems extraordinary. That second tranche would have been $2.7 million to pay for the expenses required in getting to the point where a contractor is chosen and has signed. So the Town must front this money, instead. For context, the MBLC now knows that the Town and Trustees have not only failed to submit their design to the Historical Commission, but that, on their grant application, they misrepresented that the Jones Library was NOT on either the State or National Register of Historic Places., p . 9.

    If the Town and Trustees sign a construction contract for a design that has NOT undergone Massachusetts Historic Commission review, accordingly, will the MBLC put any more State money into this project? The MBLC’s regulations say no. Also, the Town and Trustees signed a grant contract with the MBLC undertaking to submit their design to the Historical Commission. They have failed to comply with the MBLC grant contract that they signed. This breaches their contract. 605 CMR 6.05 (c).

    Will they cure this breach? The Historical Commission review and comment process would take several months and require expenditures for the architects. I see no evidence that the Town and Trustees intend to go through with this. Yet, unless they do, consequences are severe: “No further disbursements will be made by the [MBLC], and all funds previously advanced … plus interest, must be returned.” Ibid.

    The regulations thus provide that for the Town’s and Trustees’ breach of their MBLC construction contract, the MBLC will both refuse further funding, and require the Town to return the $2.7 million of grant money that the MBLC has paid so far — plus interest. I’ve been a member of the D.C. Bar since 1978. In my view, if the Town and Trustees continue to brush off their legal obligations here, the MBLC must do exactly that.

  22. In my view as a past Trustee President, the Town and Trustees are flirting with financial disaster as to the Jones Library’s demolition/construction project. Kudos to Trustee Treasurer Bob Pam for being Horatio at the Bridge of fiscal sanity for it.

  23. Thank you Ira for answering the questions. I applaud you for your responding.

    Your answers were great but lacked any specificity or evidence that a different plan could be created for the library at lesser or equivalent cost to the town taxpayer.

    And that’s a very important issue. The evidence that exists about alternatives to the current plan demonstrate that the costs would be at least as high even if such a plan was available (biddable construction documents).

    Further, since no such full-fledged plan exists, it would take a couple of years to develop them. Construction costs will continue to increase, and there would definitely not be any state grant money available for just a renovation.

    The current plan is really terrific, and I would highly recommend that folks visit the Jones website to learn more.

    And since Ira was kind enough to answer so thoughtfully, I happily disclose that FDA continues to work diligently with the Friends of the Jones on the capital campaign, and we are very proud of that work I am also happy to disclose that I was a board member of the Amherst Cinema, Amherst A Better Chance, the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and was a basketball and soccer coach for many years. I also like to cook and have been a member of Brookfield Farm for 26 years. I will not disclose my blood type.

  24. Just in case anyone wishes to venture a guess:

    On a more serious note:

    As a matter of good public policy, would it not make sense for renovations that do not result in the destruction of historically significant (interior and exterior) features of libraries (or other public infrastructure) to be eligible for the grants that demolition/expansion proposed for the Jones? Why has there been no effort to enable that through new legislation? Isn’t it about time…?

  25. Matt:

    My plan is a rough sketch of how to deal with the problem that your plan has created.

    Your plan’s costs have bloated to $50 million, with no end in sight. The town government and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners have clearly expressed their concerns about your plan’s solvency problems. Their doubts (doubts about your plan) could result in funding from each being denied.

    My idea is “if the horse is dead, get off.” Then start over, continuously maintaining and renovating , budgeted affordably, also looking for funding, but not following the money down a rabbit hole. And ignoring historical preservation factors. And ignoring everyone outside of the insiders. It is far from a great plan

    Also, you can’t “happily disclose” that you are a paid agent, after hiding that fact repeatedly. Also, consider that a person in your position, hoping to persuade your neighbors to support your plan, but concealing your profit motive, should be better at maintaining trust and a reputation for transparency.

    Please consider that when you publish something on the Indy, that many of the readers and contributors are well aware of your double role (good neighbor and paid persuader). If I were you, I’d tend to my reputation.

  26. Since my name was mentioned in a previous post above, I will chime in with a few, I feel, cogent comments:

    1. Trustees and spouses of Jones Library Trustees who served just prior to the appointment of the current director and current board are not in favor of this renovation plan,
    2. No one is taking into account the collateral costs of demolition and disposal of debris on the environment
    3. There is no provision in any of the Jones documents for preventing or mitigating any possible damage to 18th century Strong House from the acts of demolition and/or trucking of debris off-site,
    4. Why hasn’t fund-raising from the so-called 65% residents been represented in the fund-raising total from 2016? Why are trustees leaving fund-raising from the public to after the shovel is in the ground? A very dangerous situation for future town budgets and the Jones endowment.
    5. Who signs the construction contract? The town manager, the library director, or the Board of trustees?
    6. Who says more money might come from the public, with matching funds lined up well before a shovel hits the ground, if a historically appropriate renovation is proposed? North Amherst Library is well on the way to completion under similar circumstances.
    7. Etc., etc, etc., ….

  27. Ira, with all due respect, I have never hidden the fact that FDA is happily, proudly and efficiently working for the Friends on the capital campaign. There is an incredible team of volunteers and professionals who work hard together in pursuit of a shared goal of making the Jones a much better place for many more people than it can serve well today.

    I respect the opinions of those who say the project is too expensive, and I disagree with those opinions.

    And, the fact remains that the building program will meet our community’s needs and there is a lot of community support behind it.

    As for the plan itself, the end result will be a much more accessible building for all patrons and the historic portions of the building will be made better, more accessible and treated with great care from a preservationist standpoint.

    The supposed alternative plan, which does not exist, will be at least as costly to the taxpayer with an inferior result, of that I am certain, both from a professional and personal perspective.

    There is a wealth of information available about the project on the Jones website, and that’s great, because it provides the public transparency.

    Once construction documents are complete and the public bids come back, we will then have real knowledge of what the project will cost. I would think that having such tangible evidence in hand would be the appropriate time to weigh in on costs, since those will be real, rather than speculative numbers. The cost estimates that are conducted during the design process are a tool to help shape the final product and indicate only what the estimator believes reflects current market conditions. While I don’t expect it to be the case, there could be a scenario where bids come back below estimates.

    Thousands of Amherst people are in favor of the library project – and a 65% -35% margin in an election is really significant. I hope the school vote garners a similar level of support.

  28. I would like concrete examples from Mr. Blumenfeld of where and how the historical structure will be “made better.” I only see desecration of Samuel Minot Jones’ original intent to use only the finest materials and the finest craftsmanship in Mother Amherst’s living room. And the demolition and expansion will probably bring the demise of the Strong House with it, since there is no protection provided for it.

  29. I find Mr. Blumenfeld’s continued insistence on the significance of this 65% of voters in favor of the library project to be somewhat mind-boggling. Looked at narrowly — only within the context of that one 2021 election — yes, thousands of voters — 3231, to be exact — did vote YES. And yes, that number was 65% of voter turnout — 5043 total ballots cast (with 103 blanks for that question). This is known as “spin”: Select only those numbers that appear to support your position, and promulgate and defend them no matter what. Looking at the larger picture presents a different perspective. The number of YES voters, taken in the context of all registered voters, goes down to barely 20% (out of a total of 16,187). This percentage is known as a “minority.” One would assume that it is all registered voters, and their families, who stand to benefit from this project, yet out of that larger total, 11% (1709) voted NO, less than 1% (103) expressed no opinion at the ballot box, and the remainder, that impressive 69% that I remarked on earlier, simply did not vote, for reasons that we do not know. In the face of the current town budgetary realities that all residents are now facing, but that library trustees appear to willfully ignore (with the notable and significant exception of the treasurer), one is left to wonder how much of this commentary is really Mr. Blumenfeld’s personal conviction, and how much is exactly the picture that his firm is being paid to put forth.

  30. Hilda – Great question about how the historic portion of the building will be made better.

    Here are some answers – based on Feingold Alexander’s July 2022 Schematic Design –

    On the first floor – The entryway onto Amity Street will keep the stairs and refurbish interior. The children’s area will become much less crowded, and because there will be significant expansion of children’s space going back into the new addition, the historic portion of the Children’s room will be able to accommodate more children and families…The former auditorium (now to the right of the atrium) will be an adult reading room that allows for the grandeur of that room to be appreciated by users. Currently the stacks prevent that. Staff work areas will be reconfigured for greater efficiency and ease of use by staff.

    On the second floor, much more of the level will be accessible to the public. The Amherst Room looks like it will be expanded and the woodwork on the wall will be kept/refurbished. There will be classrooms and at least one quiet study room in parts of the second floor that are now non-accessible to the public.

    And, of course, HVAC and all other building systems will be modernized to increase energy efficiency substantially and to reduce the carbon footprint of the Jones.

    These are some, but not all of the positive changes, and there will likely continue to be some changes made as the project continues to go through the design process.

    Here’s the link to the design that I am looking at to answer your question…—Finegold-Alexander-July-1-2022-PDF

    Thanks for asking that.

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