Andrew Vecchio: Opposition to library expansion is about priorities

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Opponents to the $35 million Amherst library expansion are not anti-government, anti-tax or anti-library. They simply understand the importance of prioritizing expenses. Here is a list of town priorities we must address first:

1) New central fire station. How many more studies and thousands of dollars are needed to reach the same conclusion? The central fire station needs to be replaced and relocated. Fire and EMS staff do not use 100-year-old vehicles, equipment or techniques to do their jobs properly, nor should they be expected to operate out of a nearly century-old building. Public safety should be the highest priority.

2) New DPW building. Part of the justification to upgrade the library is to increase energy efficiency, accessibility and code compliance. But take a look at our current DPW building, which is a former trolley car repair facility. No joke. DPW would be thrilled to have had a headquarters renovation as recently as 1993 like the library. Building a new facility to better serve all town residents is long overdue.

3) Road improvements. Yep, more complaints about the Amherst roads. In my neighborhood some roads are in deplorable condition. Not only an eyesore, they are a safety hazard to vehicles and pedestrians. I incurred several hundreds dollars worth of vehicle damage on an Amherst pothole. Some residents, especially the elderly or those with young children, simply won’t walk or bike on dilapidated roads for fear of injury.

4) Upgraded high school athletic facilities. The high school athletic facilities are an embarrassment compared to neighboring towns. Don’t believe it? Check out nearby Belchertown and South Hadley for comparison. At times Amherst can’t host home events due to deteriorating conditions of the fields and track. Our hard working student-athletes and coaches deserve much better.

A library expansion would be a nice project. We need to first focus on necessary projects. Any homeowner will tell you it’s foolish to spend money on a new sunroom addition when the roof is leaking and the furnace is failing. Town leaders and voters need to make the same tough necessary financial choices that all town residents can afford to live with.

Andrew Vecchio