Edgartown selectmen and members of the Edgartown Library Foundation sparred Monday over whether the nonprofit organization would turn over money for the town’s new library project, with selectmen criticizing the organization for a lack of transparency and withholding the money, while foundation members said they had concerns about the project’s completion and wanted naming opportunities for the new library.
In March, members of the library building design committee asked selectmen to intervene, saying that the Edgartown Library Foundation, a nonprofit organization, was withholding money raised for Edgartown’s new library. Foundation chair Susan Cahoon told the Gazette then that the foundation intended to donate the money but there had been no set time for when the money would change hands.
But at Monday’s meeting, selectman Michael Donaroma, who is also a member of the library building design committee, asked for more information. “We’d like to know exactly what you have and when we’re going to get it,” he said.
Ms. Cahoon said the foundation has pledged $175,000 and “has every intention of fulfilling that pledge.” The money is in the bank gathering interest, she said, and there was no set date for when it would be given to the town.
She added that there were conditions to the pledge. Specifically, she said, the foundation wanted to make sure all funding was received and approval issued before turning over the money. “We want to make sure the project is going to happen,” she said.
Another sticking point, she said, was naming opportunities for donations. The foundation and Edgartown Library Trustees have said they would like people to have naming opportunities for the new library, but selectmen so far have not supported that idea, saying that the library is largely funded by taxpayers and should not have private donor plaques.
Ms. Cahoon and others said that more money would be available with naming opportunities.
The selectmen said everything has been approved, with the town approving the project at town meeting last year and the town has been approved for a state grant.
Regarding naming opportunities, “every taxpayer is involved with their money,” Mr. Donaroma said. “When you offer a special opportunity to somebody because they give something the local taxpayer can’t afford, you start to end with names on different parts of the library when in fact taxpayers paid for the majority.”
“I don’t know why anybody gives you any money at all,” Mr. Donaroma later said. “I wouldn’t give you a dime. It’s just absurd. It’s ridiculous.”
“Condition on top of condition on top of condition,” he continued. “Everybody in this town is trying to build something here.” He said he’s heard from foundation donors who want to know what happened to their money.
“It almost sounds like the foundation is more of a hindrance at this point that helping the library move forward,” selectman Margaret Serpa said.
Some questioned why the $175,000 donation was important to the selectmen. “I think people would like to hear that the foundation really is on board,” Mr. Donaroma said.
The $175,000 is “money that was raised in the name of the Edgartown Library,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “We as representatives of the town share responsibility to say okay, this money been raised for this town department; we need to see it.”
Ms. Cahoon said the foundation would like to be kept in the loop about the library’s progress, with library director Jill Hughes suggesting that they attend library trustee meetings. Some suggested further discussions about naming opportunities, though Mr. Donaroma said he’d like to see what happens with the $175,000 before taking that step.