Edgartown library trustees agreed to back a new library design this week, but tacked on a set of complicated conditions that could still jeopardize the state grant application.
At a meeting Tuesday afternoon library trustees voted 3-2 to support the idea of building a new library at the site of the old Edgartown School, first attaching three conditions; one is meant to ensure that the Carnegie building on North Water street will continue to be used for library purposes and two others would make rules for the future sale of the Warren House adjacent to the Carnegie building.
An exasperated selectman and building committee chairman Michael Donaroma said the committee now intends to apply for the grant with or without the support of the library trustees.
“The selectmen’s plans are to support the committee and go full speed ahead,” Mr. Donaroma said in a telephone conversation with the Gazette yesterday. “We’re going to meet with the public and if [the board doesn’t] want to sign it then they don’t sign it. If they want to hurt it, sabotage it or kidnap it, they’ll have to answer to the voters ultimately.”
Building committee vice chairman Carl Watt echoed Mr. Donaroma’s remarks.
“I was extremely disappointed in the actions of the library trustees; it had been represented to me that the outcome would be different,” said Mr. Watt, who represented the committee at the Tuesday meeting. “When I asked to address the board, I wasn’t allowed to speak . . . I believe the action the board took jeopardizes our ability to submit a solid grant,” he said.
The town plans to apply for the state grant on Jan. 27. If it is approved, and if the design and funding is approved by town voters at the annual town meeting in April, the state will match the funds appropriated by voters. Edgartown is one of 30 small towns in the commonwealth, including West Tisbury, that is applying for library grant money.
The library building project has been the subject of a flurry of meetings in the last month — before the selectmen, the building committee, the town historic commission and the library trustees — as town leaders struggle to keep the project on track.
In the latest move, the building committee scrapped an increasingly unworkable plan to expand and renovate the Carnegie building, and returned to the concept of an entirely new facility at the site of the old school. Sketches are now on the drawing board in earnest for that plan.
“I was greatly worried about what you were going to come up with; I think this is brilliant. I love it,” committee member Richard Knight told architects Celia Imrey and Jeffrey Hoover at a meeting Tuesday morning. “I think one of the biggest issues for me and the [old Edgartown] school was trying to make it look like a library. This looks like a library. This has really nice bones. It looks great.”
Committee member and former chairman Chris Scott agreed. “I picked up on elements of the familiar in terms of the existing library and the existing school,” Mr. Scott said. “I think it’s going to be a very comfortable design to present to the public and I commend you for it.”
The Edgartown School committee unanimously endorsed the design at their monthly meeting this week as well.
“As a member of the school committee and a taxpayer, I’m just excited all the way around,” Leslie Baynes said. “I would think that [Andrew] Carnegie would be thrilled. Carnegie’s idea was to raise the level of education and that’s what this does and that’s what we’re about. It’s great for everybody.”
But library trustees Patricia Rose, Ellen Kaplan and Ned Southworth insisted that they would only support the new design and grant application if their questions about the Warren House and the future of the Carnegie building were answered by the time the grant was due on Jan. 27. The board’s signature is required for the grant application; it is unclear what will happen if they do not sign it. Library trustees Ann Tyra and Herbert Foster voted in the minority, preferring no conditions.
Mr. Donaroma pledged to push the project forward with or without the support of the trustees. “If it wasn’t for the school and the new plan, if it wasn’t so exciting and so positive I think the committee might have just folded,” he said. “But because of this new project and now we’ve seen quick copy of what could possibly be there, we’ve got to have the opportunity to give the voters an option.”
“It’s full speed ahead,” he added.
Library trustee and board chairman Ms. Rose stood her ground.
“We’re basically in the same place where we were before we took the vote,” she said yesterday on her way to a meeting with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the grant awarders. “We’ve made it clear the things that are of concern to the trustees, and we need answers before the grant is submitted.”
Library trustees will meet with the selectmen on Tuesday afternoon; a public forum on the new library plan will be held at the Edgartown School on Wednesday at 6 p.m.