Letter to LM BOC Regarding the Gladwyne Library Renovation
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Dear Board of Commissioners:
We are writing to ask that you delay any vote to go forward with the renovation of the Gladwyne Library as part of the Library-wide capital campaign program. Last week, Commissioner Bernheim and many other commissioners recommended splitting up the Ardmore Library and Gladwyne Library renovations which were originally planned to be bid together, and postponing any decision on Gladwyne at that time. Due to the late hour, the matter was tabled to this week, and nothing has changed in the interim. There are many unresolved issues with this project that need to be addressed first.
1: What are the "Strings attached?" The Gladwyne Library building is privately-owned, and very well managed by the Gladwyne Library Board of Trustees. Because the township is footing the 1.5 million dollar estimate for the cost of the renovation (which includes an elevator tower and an ADA compliant restroom), there are "strings attached," and the township wants an agreement of some sort. According to Chris Steckel, the head of the Lower Merion Library System, "The Township would be likely to protect its investment by a legal agreement the specifics of which have not yet been decided." The Gladwyne Library Trustees do not know what this agreement is, and apparently neither does the Township. The terms of this legal agreement offered from the township to protect their interests should be known to all before an educated decision can be made.
2: What are the long-term ramifications of undertaking this project within the Gladwyne community? This proposed project has caused a potentially large rift within the "library community" consisting of the Library League and the Board of Trustees, as well as the Gladwyne community at large. Before the project became reality, the Gladwyne community was wholeheartedly supportive of its special Library. Now there are many who feel that their concerns have been sidelined and are unimportant to the BoT, LMLS and the Foundation. Their views are legitimate and far from insensitive to those who are disabled. It would be a mistake to ignore the many concerns of the near neighbors and long-time supporters who truly care about the Library and the Gladwyne community. Future fundraising and broad community support will definitely be affected by a decision to move forward without attempting to resolve the community’s legitimate concerns.
3: What will be the scope and scale of this project? The original plan included a large tower housing an elevator that holds 6 – 8 people. This tower was to be illuminated 24/7. Also included were renovations to make an ADA compliant bathroom. When this plan was put forward to the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB), they tabled discussions and told the planners that the tower would not receive a "Certificate of Appropriateness" as it stood. So it’s back to the drawing board. Cost estimates will probably be affected as well, and will more taxpayer money be used to come up with Plan B from the architects?
a) All the signers of this e-mail request an indefinite postponement of going forward with this project with so many unanswered questions yet to be addressed.
b) Many disapprove of the project completely as there is no legal requirement to update the building to be ADA compliant. The building is historic and as such has limitations. The Township solicitor has stated that the Gladwyne project is unnecessary because other libraries within the system are ADA compliant. This renovation would also mean that the Library would be closed for approximately 12 months.
c) Many also feel that this project should stay within the confines of the Gladwyne community and that the Gladwyne Library Trustees should undertake it on its own, perhaps on a much smaller scale.
d) Some would be amenable to the township handling the project IF all answered questions are acceptable to them.
Thank you all for service to our community and your consideration of our request.
Signed by 67 (and counting!) including Library League Members, Gladwyne Library Trustees, Former Library League Members, Former Library League trustees, Gladwyne Civic Directors, and Gladwyne Library Supporters