Town Leaders Silent as Library Misses First Payment of $2M


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Even before construction bids have been received, the Jones Library Trustees have failed to meet their first commitment of a repayment schedule to the town. A $2 million payment was due to the Town on January 31, 2024 (see this cash flow document) but the Library fell far short.

At the Town Council meeting on February 6, 2024, new member of the Jones Library Building Committee, Councilor Pam Rooney (District 4), reported that the library had transferred $300,000 to the town and asked the Town Manager if he had any information about the rest of the money that was due. Bockelman offered no reply.

Below is the transcript of the entire exchange. You can watch here, starting at around 4 hours and 40 minutes into the meeting.

  • Town Council President Lynn Griesemer: “Jones Library Committee. Pam Rooney is our representative, Paul Bockelman is also on that committee. Pam?”
  • District 4 Town Councilor Pam Rooney: “Thank you. I was able to meet with the library director and they are moving along looking for hoping to get settled on interim space. She did mention the $300,000 that was recently passed over to the town from, as she called it, miscellaneous pieces. I neglected to ask her about the timing of the first round of the $2 million that the finance schedule called for. So I was gonna ask Paul if he has knowledge of that, the timing of that $2 million payment. And what is the impact to the borrowing if we don’t see that $2 million in the time frame that was being projected for our amount? And then, thirdly, the very happy fact that the North Amherst Library was open to the public today, and there were lots of people there.”
  • Town Council President Lynn Griesemer: “Anything else to add, Mr. Bockelman?”
  • Town Manager Paul Bockelman: “No.”

And that was the entire discussion.

Many promises were made during deliberations on the Jones expansion project about whether the town should commit to backing the $46+ million Jones Library demolition, expansion, and renovation project, including the town taking on well over $25 million in debt and interest. One of those promises was that the town would receive from the library regular funds according to a schedule, the first payment of which was $2 million due by January 31, 2024. 

To review: The Town Council member on the Library Building Project Committee asked the Town Manager for an update about whether $2 million was received and, if not, what is the impact of the failure to meet that first of many such obligations. The answer? Silence.

A request by the Indy to Town Manager Bockelman for additional information about the payment has not received a response at the time of this posting. The Amherst Town Collector/Treasurer did promptly respond to a records request and confirmed that only $249,000 had been received from the library by the January 31 deadline; another $51,000 was received a week later.

Below is the schedule of payments owed to the Town per the documents produced prior to the vote by the Town Council on funding of the project. The Indy will continue to provide updates on the status of these promises.   

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14 thoughts on “Town Leaders Silent as Library Misses First Payment of $2M

  1. The Town Council and Town Manager spent a lot of time trying to justify putting the town on the hook for this project. Many residents tried to warn the against empty promises and meaningless words of the memorandum of understanding. And when the library comes up $1.7 million short on its first payment since then, the Town Manager has exactly NOTHING to say to a direst question about it and not a single councilor demands an explanation? There does not appear to be anyone in town government representing the financial interest of the town here.

    Our elected representatives need to step up.

  2. It is all empty promises on top of a need which we don’t have for more space when libraries everywhere are seeing fewer and fewer people come to the library building as virtual loans expand. This project must stop. The town has apparently not done due diligence on the library’s finances and ability to repay. There must be no demolition until it is certain that, at the very least, they can repay the town what they owe us.

  3. Hopefully someone in town government or the library trustees will answer this $1.7 million dollar question. If no elected or appointed government official answers, their silence speaks volumes.

  4. I expected the Library to renege on its financial obligations and stick the town with millions in construction costs. But the irresponsible leaders of the Library have defaulted ahead of my expectations.
    The only question is whether our town council will wake up and stop this boondoggle before it sinks our finances.

  5. We all love the Jones Library and want renovations, but Amherst NEEDS to scale back this project asap! We CANNOT afford it! It is upsetting to see our taxes so high, our schools planning to cut paraprofessionals and instrumental teachers who are already paid so little, our fire and public works departments in need of funds, and everything else I may have missed…… Scale back this project, please!

  6. The Town should take action against this project as any credible lender accountable to regulators would do. Declare the loan in default and cancel it immediately. This project was doomed as soon as it ballooned past $10 mil. Replacing the incompetent Library Trustees should be part of the remediation. Their fast and loose finances are threatening the viability of the town budget, impacting children and those in need of vital services.

  7. It does seem like Maria Kopicki is correct when she says, “There does not appear to be anyone in town government representing the financial interest of the town here.”

    As explained in the article, according to the Revised Cash Flow (11/27/23) that the Town Manager and Town Councilors used to push for/justify Town Council authorization to borrow up to $46 million for the Jones project, the library would hand over to the Town substantial funds earlier so as to reduce the amount the Town would need to borrow to pay for construction, and hence reduce the interest the Town would be paying over and above the interest on its $15.8m share of the cost.

    The library remitted $500,000 in June 2022, and was supposed to hand over $2 million more by 1/31/24. Totally unsurprising that they failed to hit this first milestone. The Cash Flow table was always a fantasy and an unrealistic best case scenario.

    I wonder how the Town leaders would feel if us taxpayers paid just 15% of our tax bills instead of 100%. Would they be silent then?

    The Cash Flow projects the Town taking out a $15.8 million loan by the end of May 2024. Shortly after that, repayments will begin. Presumably this $1.7 million shortfall means the Town will need to borrow that much more, and be liable for interest on that increased borrowing until such time as the Library pays the Town and the borrowing can be reduced. It would be nice to see our Town leaders follow through on their claims and promises and enforce the Agreement, to protect residents from having to foot an even higher bill for this boondoggle than was promised.

    Incidentally, who has paid the more than $1.7 million in architect and project management invoices to date? Has the Town paid those while the Library sits on an $8 million endowment and supposed millions in community donations and grants?

  8. Leave the library as is and cancel the construction plans. Stop sending good money after bad decisions. The homeless can find internet elsewhere.

  9. This project is so ridiculous. Time to stop this. It is not difficult. Do not continue. Not one penny more of taxpayer’s money.

    There is a new addition to a beautiful old library in North Amherst. It is only a few miles away from the Jones. Visit that and rejoice.

    Thanks to the donor who so generously provided our town with this wonderful new addition to a very special library.

  10. I don’t like the fact that a town councilor asks a question of the town manager regarding millions of dollars that the residents of Amherst are asked to help fund and we get a flip response. This library project is way over done and should have never been this extravagant and should never have been next in line to be done after the school.

    The Fire and DPW departments have been waiting for decades to get what they need. In place of that, they get here’s a hundred thousand, fix your leaks and suck it up while we continue to push our vision through no matter what!

    BTW, how’s the residential rental issues going? Any money left for that problem?

  11. Help me understand. A “promise” (an assurance? a contractual obligation?) is made to transfer $2million by the end of January. Only $300,000 is transferred. And our elected and appointed officials OK with this? No explanation offered or sought, no demand for the missing funds? Are there no consequences for failing to fulfill this promise? What am I missing? What is going on that we cannot see?

  12. This is truly an astounding little drama to watch unfold. According to the Jones Library Capital Campaign November 2023 Fundraising Progress Report, the”Total Secured by the Jones Library” is $9,120,402. And yet, of that impressive number, somehow only $300,000 — and an overjoyed “yay!” — has been transferred to the town, rather than the promised $2,000,000. And of that $300,000, a large chunk appears to be from the unrestricted bequest from John Van Steenberg, who died in 2017 — the year that the Jones submitted their application to the MBLC. Add to this the silence of Town Hall when asked about this disparity, and words simply fail.

    I am reminded of the proverbial willful teenager who begs and begs and pleads with her parents to get her a dog — and not just any dog, but a Great Dane — and swears and promises that she will take on all care of the dog, and will get a part-time job to pay for all of the dog’s food and vet bills, and will walk the dog faithfully every single day. I think we all know how that scenario played out.

  13. According to the capital campaign report in the Jones Library Trustees January 22, 2024 packet, as of 1/1/24 they had received $1,678,066 in gifts from foundations, corporation, and the community of which $500,000 had been remitted to the town. See page 12 of this document:

    If the Trustees have this money, why hasn’t it also been remitted toward payment of the first installment? It’s still not enough to cover the $2M it owed by 1/31/24, but whatever has been secured should be handed over to the town.

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