Elissa Rubinstein: Push pause on Jones Library project

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Jones Library project is on a fast track for approval by Amherst Town Council. Because of this unique time with unknowns about the course of the pandemic, the instability of the situation at UMass and the possible economic repercussions for Amherst, I would urge pressing the pause button.

Several big ticket capital expenses are on the horizon: a new elementary school(s), public works building and fire station. Just recently we learned $13 million needs to be spent on our water treatment facility. What other large expenditure might be around the corner?

Meanwhile, Amherst residents are facing anxiety about their health, their housing and food security and their ability to pay bills. Our economic future is far from guaranteed.

Because we are in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, let’s consider a comparison. The Centers for Disease Control suggested state governments triage people who need vaccine the most: first responders, people living in care facilities and people over 75. They are getting the vaccine first while others have to patiently wait, but it’s being done for the welfare of the entire community.

How do we respond when we learn a 50- or 60-year-old jumped the line and received a vaccine? Not well. That’s how the library project needs to be viewed. We all love the library and recognize there are structural renovations needed, but is this particular project at “high-risk” status, deserving to push ahead of all others?

Elissa Rubinstein