I love libraries—I visit different ones weekly—but I have concerns about whether or not an 8,000-square-foot, $7.4 million library (excluding bonding costs), can be sustained by Chester’s taxpayers, and utilized enough by Chester’s population to warrant a building of this magnitude.
There’s been much discussion about developing North Quarter Park, but until the Board of Finance and taxpayers vote on it, it’s not a done deal, although a lot of time, money, and hard work have gone into creating these plans. Perhaps there are more cost-effective options to keep taxes down so young families can afford to move here, and older families can afford to stay.
Has a feasibly study been done on the space where the Essex Savings Bank is after its lease is up? It’s large enough. There’s plenty of parking. There’s a community room upstairs. It’s already built. The town owns it. It’s 0.6 miles from the center. Can we revisit expanding the current library since a survey conducted by the Chester Public Library stated residents “resoundingly preferred to stay in the current location”?
Perhaps we build a smaller library. The state recommendation is 1.6 square feet per person. With a population of 4,245, and approximately 1,041 cardholders, does 6,720 square feet or smaller make sense? Certainly, smaller would cost less to build, staff, and maintain. Libraries are also going digital and ultimately will require less space to house collections. Should this be considered when deciding on how much square footage is need? We also have six neighboring libraries offering programs and events all within a 12-minute drive or less that can easily be utilized.
We, the taxpayers, should carefully consider what the size, scope, and cost of this project should be, and what we as a town, really need.