In a unanimous vote last month, the Board of Finance approved a $5.4 million bond authorization for the renovation of the Blackstone Memorial Library. The BOF recommended the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) do so as well. Tonight the RTM gets to vote.
Residents should make their voices heard at the RTM meeting tonight. It will take place in the community room at Fire Headquarters, 45 North Main St., starting at 8 p.m.
On Monday the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) gave the library project a positive referral. When a town project comes before it, the P&Z has the option of giving a positive or negative referral. Later this month, on Jan. 18, the P&Z will hold a public hearing on the library’s site plans.
Unlike other current town projects, the Community House-Senior Center project and the Walsh Intermediate School, the library project provides a rich variety of resources in a variety of areas for residents of all ages, not just those of specific ages. The Branford Community Foundation provided $100,000 in a matching grant to the library.
Four major challenges have been identified for change— the children’s and teens’ areas are not adequate; there are only 21 public computers; meeting space is limited; and the rear entrance is not as functional as it could be.
The renovation, which will take place while the library continues to operate, will provide expanded computer services for those in need. Libraries across the state have become the go-to place for residents seeking computer services. The library also provides programs for children and adults of all ages.
First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove has not voiced his opinion publicly on the library project, but has indicated he is leaning in favor of the project.
Finance Director Jim Finch is also in favor of the project and voiced his approval at the BOF meeting. Some Republican RTM members have privately voiced opposition. The Eagle attempted several times yesterday to discuss the issue with Cosgrove but he did not return calls seeking comment.
Plans call for a 2,000-square-foot addition on the ground floor, and reconfiguration of many interior spaces throughout the library. The distinctive front entrance and steps will remain the same.
Blackstone Awarded $1 Million State Grant With Conditions
The Blackstone has been awarded a $1 million state library grant toward the project, but to get the $1 million grant the library must have all its funds in place by March 1, 2018. This includes the town’s funds. Otherwise, the $1 million state library grant will be lost.
As part of its renovation project, the library launched a campaign to raise donations and pledges toward an $800,000 goal toward renovating the library. Nearly 500 members of the community have contributed funds and the Branford Community Foundation has pledged to match individual gifts in amounts up to $1,000 for a total match of $100,000. All contributed with the expectation that the project would be approved.
Outside the library stands the library’s “thermometer,” which keeps track of its $800,000 goal. As of last week, the building renovation campaign had reached $684,000.