Select Board, trustees against North Amherst Library design plan

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

AMHERST — Even though a proposal to complete designs for the North Amherst Library that would bring the 1893 building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is coming before Town Meeting, both the Select Board and trustees for the Jones Library are not supporting the article.

The Select Board Monday voted unanimously to have the article referred to both boards as a way to get improvements into a formal process, which includes a review by the Joint Capital Planning Committee and possible placement of a building project on the town’s five-year capital plan.

The Select Board’s decision came after trustees unanimously voted to recommend Town Meeting defeat the petition from the Friends of the North Amherst Library.

Lead petitioner Patricia Holland, a former president of the trustees, is suggesting that $50,000 in town money be used to hire an architect to develop plans for installing a bathroom for patrons, putting in an elevator to make the building wheelchair-accessible and to possibly enhance the building in other ways, such as providing access to attic space as a meeting room.

But Select Board members said it is not the right time to support this article. Board member Jim Wald said he is sympathetic to the gesture, but that the proposal needs to go through a thought-out process.

One issue is that while the town owns the adjacent land, there are plans reconfigure the intersection of Montague and Sunderland roads, and it is unclear how that will impact the library, including future parking for patrons.

Town Meeting Precinct 1 member Vincent O’Connor said that 27 years after the ADA law was adopted is too late for officials to talk about the importance of the town’s process.

“I think referring to the process is really not going to fly,” O’Connor said.