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State Library Board Denies Belmont's Request to Move New Library Site

Decision likely ends attempts by Board of Library Trustees to build a new building for the near future; must return nearly $8 million in state funding.

A last gasp attempt to save a $19.5 million new Belmont Public Library proposal was shot down when the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners denied a request by the Belmont Board of Library Trustees to build the 42,000 square-foot two story structure on the site of the present library building. 

The MBLC voted Thursday, July 11, in Boston not to allow the move after the Belmont School Committee refused in April to transfer land across Concord Avenue from the present library to the Trustees as it would reduce the number of playing fields needed by Belmont High School for its sports program.

The refusal by the state to allow the change has all but effectively ended the hope of the Trustees to construct a state-of-the-art library to replace the nearly half-century old structure at 336 Concord Ave.

It is now expected that the Trustees will return the nearly $8 million in a state grant to build the new library to the MBLC that will then fund proposals from communities that were on the board's waiting list.

This marks the third time in the past 15 years that Belmont has failed to move past the grant-acceptance stage in building a new library.

"We do have an extension of the grant until December but I don't know where we go from here if we don't have a site or just as critically the support of the town," said Library Trustee Elaine Alligood, who was not in Boston when the decision was made.

Matt Lowrie, chair of the Belmont Board of Library Trustees, announced last month that the Trustees would follow the successful example used in West Springfield last year which persuaded the MBLC to allow the use of an alternative location to the site submitted to the state, which is prohibited by the state as part of the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program which awards grants to communities to build new libraries. 

But unlike the West Springfield decision made last year, which resulted when the city revoked an existing agreement with the library when it decided to use the land for school expansion, the Belmont Trustees never held title over the land which impacted the MBLC's vote to deny the request.

As a result, Belmont will not have an opportunity to seek another MBLC grant for at least five years. 

Waverly Watchdog July 13, 2013 at 02:07 PM
This decision is really good news for overburdened Belmont Taxpayers, for once. A new signature library was a want, couched as a NEED. Now, perhaps, the Trustees will spend their resources on fixing what really NEEDS to be fixed in the current builting, instead of squandering money on architects, etc. Had the Board of Selectmen and TM had the backbone to stop this nonsense in its infancy, a LOT of other peoples' money could have been saved. Waverly.Watchdog@gmail.com
Lee Adams July 13, 2013 at 10:55 PM
I agree. Many Belmont Taxpayers as myself are very grateful the MBLC came to their senses and put an ended to this. The Belmont Board of Library Trustees led by Matt Lowrie is a perfect example of what's wrong with the Town. They presented their forced WANT and dressed it as a $19.5-million NEED. I've stated in numerous Selectmen Meetings how is the current Library being used? What's the future of Libraries and how will they be used? These are just some of the many questions the Board of Library Trustees failed to answers. They never had Community buy-in or supported for such an extravagant pet project. The Community and our Elected Officials need to have real discussions in what's in the best interest for Belmont's future as a whole. We need to discuss the real NEEDS and not the Special Interest's WANTS, as the Underwood Pool. Belmont faces many financial issues in must honestly address. It's unfunded debt obligations, the current level of sub-par services the community receives, no comprehensive Capital Project plan in place and an open discussion is needed how Union Contracts must be just providing its memebrs fair compensation yet not burden the Town and Taxpayers with these Pensions it can no longer support. These are just some of the major issues I see WE must seriously discuss now.
Marion Bloch July 18, 2013 at 09:48 AM
I disagree. Look at the beautiful new libraries in Watertown, Newton, and Cambridge. Libraries represent the intellectual aspirations of a community. The let's keep Belmont the way it has always been kind of thinking in the comments above are more representative of the Belmont of 15 years ago when we first moved in. If the town hadn't changed we wouldn't have the wonderful restaurants and shops in the center and Cushing Square that are now there. Of course roads need to be kept up and Belmont has to deal with overburdened pension plans that are a result of the retirement age for government employees being very young, but the town also has to move forward.
Waverly Watchdog July 19, 2013 at 02:23 PM
"...the beautiful new libraries in Watertown, Newton, and Cambridge." - ALL of those cities and towns have a substantial commercial tax base, that can be bled and bled. Belmont has essentially none. "The let's keep Belmont the way it has always been..." - Surprizingly I fully agree- but to me that is pre-Brownsburger and the spending binge he started. Belmont USED to be fiscally responsible. That is no longer true. Belmont has changed because of the influx of Progressives from places like the Peoples' Republic of Cambridge, and brought their profilge ways with them. As to Cushing Square and 'wonderful resteraunts' those were created with PRIVATE money, not by taxing others to pay for your toys. The present library is entirely satisfactory for its INTENDED USE... a repository for books to lend to Belmont residents. If you want a movie- go to NetFlix; if you want an internet cafe- go to an Internet Cafe or buy an iPad; -if you want a babysitter- hire one or go to make a deal with friends; if you want a designer coffee- go to a Starbucks. A signiture, and grossly expensive, library will lend you the exact same book as the existing Belmon one. Belmont has a long history of overbuilding facilities. People from other towns go to the Senior Center built with Belmont Taxpayer money. If you admire the other libraries so much, go there. Belmont CANNOT AFFORD 'build it and they will come'. As to: "Belmont has to deal with overburdened pension plans that are a result of the retirement age for government employees being very young, but the town also has to move forward." The debacle in Detroit should be a lesson to Belmont about profligate spending on pensions and other public sector goodies.
Waverly Watchdog July 19, 2013 at 02:24 PM
The new posting app deletes all formatting.
Marion Bloch July 20, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Actually I do go to Watertown and Cambridge. We live nearer to the Aberdeen branch than to the Belmont library. Also, the library belongs mainly to Belmont residents, but as a member of the Minuteman network we can share in the books from all the libraries in the area--and they are welcome to share ours! And I think borrowing a movie on DVD from the library is a whole lot cheaper than buying a tablet! Not only that but the businesses I brought up are expanding the business tax base of the town, even if they change the nature of it a bit.
Waverly Watchdog July 22, 2013 at 02:49 PM
If you "live nearer to the Aberdeen branch than to the Belmont library" why agitate for the latter? --P-- Yes, the library does "... belong(s) mainly to Belmont residents". It has been bought and paid for by the Belmont Taxpayers, and yet the BoLT has postponed maintenance and used the resultant issues as pretexts for pushing for their new toy, to replace the one they have ignored. --P- On the Munuteman network, if a book is available upon request from off-site storage, that renders moot the "need" for mo-re on-site storage... one of the touted 'needs' for a new library. --P-- -"And I think borrowing a movie on DVD from the library is a whole lot cheaper than buying a tablet!" --P-- Oh really? --P- If the net cost to Belmont Taxpayers is $10,000,000, and there are 10,000 households in town, the library will cost each about $1000 (+ another 25% for debt service). --P--You can buy several tablets for that price.
Rich Snow July 23, 2013 at 12:31 PM
@Marion - I am with you. There are two issues here: The town has spent a tremendous amount of money in the last ten years on schools and town buildings, and in my view they should build the library before any more money gets spent on these other capital projects. The second issue is: The town does not seem to support the library and the library does not seem to have a channel of communication with the town. This lack of communication and support is the cause of our inability to successfully win this grant money. WRT the comments that the library is 'obsolete', I think we have to consider the basic premise of the free public library. Sure it is true that books are not the only educational or entertainment medium these days, but look at the video and other media available from our library. Look at the fact that the library provides the only free computer and internet access in Belmont. The library is changing with the times. Card catalogs have been gone for years. The library has fantastic access to databases for example which you and I cannot afford to access any other way. The reason we are so passionate about libraries, is that we are passionate about literacy. Why? My school was great, but my career is self learned because my field did not exist when I was in high school. Most of that learning occurred in libraries. When you don't know how to answer a question, I guarantee you the reference department does. There are things you cannot learn about from Fox News, Wikipedia or YouTube. And please remember that two of the three are entertainment rather than authoritative sources, just ask Bill O'Reilly.

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