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Jones Library trustees push for yes vote on $36.3M library project

  • Jones Library in Amherst GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2021

AMHERST — Trustees for the Jones Library are unanimously urging voters to support a renovation and addition to the Amity Street building.

Trustees voted 6-0 Monday in favor of a yes vote for the $36.6 million project that will be a referendum question on the Nov. 2 ballot, alongside candidates for Town Council and other town boards and committees.

“The proposed renovation and addition to the Jones is the outcome of a decade of careful study and planning,” the trustees wrote in a statement. “The proposal has been created based on the needs of, and input from, our community and endorsed by experts in library design at the state level and by town committees and the Town Council.”

Trustees cite the fiscal responsibility of the project, observing that for $15.8 million, representing the town’s share for the project, all needed repairs, estimated at between $14 million and $16 million, can be done. An additional $20 million coming from other sources, trustees note, including a $13.8 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, will result in a modern library.

The vote by the trustees comes as competing ballot question committees have formed, including one to overturn the Town Council’s April vote greenlighting the project. The Start Over Smart group states that there has been a lack of input from the community on the project, that it will be wasteful to demolish the 1993 addition as the project calls for, and that the resulting building will be too large for the number of users.

Vote Yes for Our Library is the other group aiming to confirm the Town Council’s vote and move forward with the project.

In August, the Town Council put the referendum on the ballot due to ongoing litigation from residents pursuing a voter-veto petition under the town charter. After failing to secure enough certified signatures, petitioners went to court, contending that some signatures were thrown out for improper reasons.

Trustees also point to the project’s environmental sustainability, that it will lead to a climate-friendly building that will use less energy and cut carbon emissions by 41% compared to the current building. The project also enhances social justice and accessibility, trustees say, by tripling the number of public computers, expanding the space available for the English as a Second Langauge program, and simplifying the layout for people with mobility challenges.

They also dispute that the project would be destructive to the town history and instead be a win for historic preservation, with much of the 93-year-old building remaining intact, and an overhaul of the special collections room so that artifacts from history are not lost.