Construction of the long-planned new Edgartown Public Library is underway, with town officials pausing Monday to celebrate the achievement.
In another step forward, the Edgartown Library Foundation, which has tussled with the town over the past year about handing over money raised for the library, has donated $110,000 toward the project.
A year ago, library trustees came to the selectmen with concerns about money the Edgartown Library Foundation raised for the project. Members of the nonprofit foundation said they intended to turn over money raised for the new library but they had concerns about whether the library would be completed and they pressed for naming rights, which the selectmen did not want to grant.
Last May, town library trustees — elected officials who represent the library — voted to sever all ties with the foundation, and to ask them to stop raising money on their behalf. The trustees and the town asked town counsel to discuss this issue with the state attorney general’s office.
According to the Edgartown Library Foundation’s 2012 tax filings obtained by the Gazette in January, the foundation ended 2012 with $452,365 in cash, savings and investments.
This week, the foundation handed over $110,000 to the trustees to use for the project. Trustees cochairman Deanna Ahearn-Laird said the money can cover add-ons for the library project like wood floors and acoustic tiles.
“We were very pleased and it didn’t come as a surprise,” Ms. Ahearn-Laird said of the donation. “It wasn’t coerced, it wasn’t embarrassed out of them, it was the two groups being civil with each other.”
Handing over the money was “just the right thing to do,” she said. “It’s a significant amount of money at this point in our project.”
She said the trustees hoped to see the remaining money, as well.
Ms. Ahearn-Laird said it was unfortunate that the two groups could not work together. She said the foundation cannot dissolve while they still have more than $300,000 left. She said they were good at fundraising, and she hoped they could put their energy into working with the trustees or the friends of the library.
She said she hoped for a transparent and positive relationship with all the committees and taxpayers going forward.
Members of the library foundation did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, those who have worked on the library project were on hand Monday, with white hard hats and gold shovels in hand, to celebrate the beginning of construction.
The space formerly occupied by the old Edgartown School is now dirt surrounded by a chain link fence, with construction equipment signalling the beginning of the building process.
There will be a community groundbreaking on May 3.
On Monday, members of the library building committee, library trustees, town selectmen, the Edgartown school principal, the building architect and project manager were all on hand to commemorate the initial groundbreaking.
“This is special because you guys are our real boots on the ground,” library director Jill Dugas Hughes told the group of volunteers. “We can finally say this is really, really truly going to happen.”
The library project has been a long time in the making as the town grappled with replacing or expanding the circa-1904 Carnegie library on North Water street. Early plans to expand or rebuild the library at the existing location fell through, and plans turned to the site of the old Edgartown School, which is located next to the existing school. Edgartown received a state grant for about half the $11 million cost.
The old Edgartown School was demolished over the summer, and the library is expected to be substantially completed by June 2015.
“Today is symbolic of all the efforts that so many people have put forth over the last decade to build a really outstanding library for current and future generations,” Ms. Hughes said.
After applause, the gold shovels went in the dirt.