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Plans for Joint Library and COA Building Discontinued

Due to grant guidelines from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), town officials will no longer pursue a new joint Library/Council on Aging building for the community. The announcement and a discussion took place during the Board of Selectmen's February 2 meeting.

In June 2015, the Selectmen approved the formation of the Joint Library/Council on Aging Feasibility Committee to investigate the possibility of constructing a joint building for both departments. Members and associate members of the committee included residents, Library Trustees, members of the Council on Aging, and Selectman Robert Fleming, among others.

According to Fleming, in order to stay in compliance with MBLC's grant guidelines, which will be used toward construction costs for the building, the new library has to be free standing. "Literally, we would be building two buildings with a wall down the middle that technically couldn't touch each other," he explained, stating that would increase costs of the project. "We couldn't even share parking spaces. These types of conflicts just became overwhelming."

As a result, in February, the Library/COA Feasibility Committee voted unanimously to discontinue pursuing the project. "We didn't want it to be them versus us. We wanted it to be what's good for the town," said Fleming.

Selectman James Brochu commended the efforts of the Committee members. "They did a good faith effort to give us the biggest bang for our buck," he said. However, ultimately, he said the project falls under the MBLC's grant requirements. "They dictate how the project will be done."

Selectman Chair Ken Picard expressed his disappointment in the grant's requirements. "I think it's a shame the way the grant is set up," he said. "It doesn't allow for any innovation or any shared utilization which would benefit the town. It is strictly all about making the library meet certain standards. I understand we want to make the library the best we can, but I think it's a shame that you cannot have innovation. But it is what it is. There is a grant committee and they give out grants and they make the rules. We're going to have to move forward."

According to Upton Library Director Matthew Bachtold, who was an associate member of the Joint Committee, the members were hoping to find more reasons than not to consider the joint building but it just didn't work out. "I'm glad we considered it but ultimately significant support from the state will be more likely with a standalone library," he said. The state grant could fund up to approximately 50 percent of the new building's eligible construction costs but would not include such costs like furniture.




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