There is a saying that there are always two sides to every story, and such is the case with the Calloway County Public Library (CCPL), its board of trustees and the issues they face. The two letters and Dr. Ken Wolf’s column which appeared in recent issues of this newspaper present an incomplete and distorted view of the matter.
In April 2018, the CCPL board adopted a plan prepared by the 5253 Design Group that enlarged the present building in the front and rear and enveloped it in a façade to give it a common appearance. This board contained one woman, not several, as Dr. Wolf asserts. Soon thereafter, three male members of the board resigned, three new members were appointed and rescinded the adoption of that plan.
Many seem not to realize that this plan required the complete closing of the present library for at least one year, finding, leasing or renting and bringing up to standards another facility, and moving the library to and from that facility. The architect estimated this would cost $73,000 plus operating costs such as insurance and utilities. There are several empty buildings in this community, but there are not several empty buildings suitable for a public library. If one were found, the owner would have to agree to needed and likely very costly upgrades, which, of course, would be paid for by the library. Then arises the question of what becomes of the upgrades when the library moves out.
Another question involves the expiration of the agreement with the facility’s owner. If the library construction is delayed and additional time is needed, and the owner of the temporary facility has an opportunity to sell it when our lease expires, then what? All this creates more problems than it solves and is an unnecessary minefield we should not enter. The best way to deal with these problems is to avoid them.
Another option is to close the library, put its computers and other electrical equipment in storage, and cover everything else in plastic while new construction proceeds. But this means there will be no functioning library for a year or more. It also means that about 15 of our 21 staff will be laid off because there will be no work for them to do. Is that what this community needs and wants? I think not.
So, we looked for other options. That’s why we considered the former Regions Bank. Perhaps it could be repurposed and the library could move in quickly, hopefully not being closed for more than a week. We also considered acquiring new property and building there, but we ran into size, location and cost problems which precluded that option.
We then searched for other options on our present property and found the one we adopted at our Aug. 13 meeting. It does not call for two separate facilities. It may not be perfect, but it does not deserve, and we do not deserve, the malicious and ugly criticisms that have spewed forth from a dozen or so (not thousands, as Dr. Wolf asserts) persons in this community.
This plan significantly enlarges library capacity, uses property we own already, minimizes future indebtedness and allows us to keep our present library open and functioning almost all of the time new construction is underway. Those are big pluses, in my view. I cannot comprehend how rational people can adhere to a plan so flawed that it would close or virtually close for at least one year a library that is used every day by members of our community. Rest assured they have their own computers and books at home and need not worry about losing their jobs.
To say our proposal will cost more is likewise spurious. Of course it will cost more! Any expansion will cost more: more staff, more utilities, more everything. It is not a question of costing more v. not costing more.
Neither have we said we would never borrow money for this project. What we have said is that the amount, interest rate and repayment schedule must be reasonable, and that we will not sell $6 to $10 million in bonds with a repayment schedule of 20 to 30 years. We most likely will borrow from local banks before the project is concluded.
And so, Ms. Gaskin, Mr. Oliver and Dr. Wolf, we may be old men but we are not ignorant, stupid “anti-intellectual” old men. We are what we are by the grace of God and we have found the “sensible center.” You need to get your facts straight. If you think “thousands” of people in this community support your position, you are sadly mistaken. And, if our advocacy of balanced, reasonable and responsible government embarrasses you, so be it.
Winfield H. Rose taught political science at Murray State University for 39 years and is now retired. He is active in the Calloway County GOP, but speaks here as an individual and not as a representative of either of these organizations. He also does not speak for anyone on the Calloway County Public Library Board other than himself.