Lower-cost library plan needed
I am writing in response to your unbalanced coverage in the March 10 Amherst Bulletin of the demolition/expansion proposal by Professor Austin Sarat and his board and the sensible alternative to it of preservation/renovation suggested by Save Our Library (SOL) group.
You devoted approximately 92 square inches of Bulletin space for the two extended articles by two supporters of the Sarat proposal, compared with 41 square inches of Bulletin space for the SOL alternative in the two letters to the editor. Is this fair or balanced?
Facts: 1) Sarat and the board’s proposal is estimated to cost $35.6 million. The hoped-for state grant is $13.7 million (38 percent of the cost base). 2) An assumption in the proposal is that $6 million will be generated from fundraising, and other unspecified sources. 3) The interest on debt for the balance is estimated at $13.9 million, over 20 years. 4) The impact on property taxes can be estimated at $124/year increase on an average Amherst home assessed at roughly $300,000 with the current tax bill of $6,549/year. 5) The school expansion project is arguably a more urgent need. Its estimated cost is $67 million, hoped for state grant is $34 million, leaving a balance of $33 million to the town. The impact of this project on property tax is estimated at $318/year increase on the hypothetical $300,000 home.
The point is that a reasonable solution to the Jones Library space and update issues can and should be accomplished at a significantly lower cost by making only the necessary modifications, and preserving the historic elegance of the library, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A serious Plan B properly thought through and costed out is yet to be offered by Sarat and the board.
Lastly, I object to the intemperate and condescending tone used by Nicholas Brown to make his point in his article. Examples: “wealthy donors worried that their garden will be tarnished,” “block progress out of sheer vanity,” etc. These comments are wrong on fact and show disrespect.
By all means, all Amherst residents should study the facts, reach judgments and vote accordingly. Disinformation and disparagement are unhelpful to the democratic process.