MY BUTTON

COVID-19 will impact

Town Budget & Priorities

RENOVATE

Jones Library

E-X-P-A-N-S-I-O-N 

TOO COSTLY & UNNECESSARY

1/6

Think YOUR VOTE is safe in Amherst MA?
THIS is what Voter Suppression looks like...

VOTER VETO PETITION 

BACKGROUND

Following the Town Council's vote on April 5th in favor of the Jones Library Demolition-Expansion, Amherst residents organized quickly to use a provision in the Amherst Town Charter for a "Voter Veto Petition." This provision of the Town Charter allows the gathering of petition signatures as a way to ask the Town Council to reconsider its vote and bring the vote in question to a town-wide referendum. No matter what your views are on the Library project, many who signed this petition believe that Amherst residents deserve to weigh in with their VOTE on a Town project this large and this costly.  In addition, some residents oppose the Library project because they are concerned that prioritizing an expanded Jones Library may jeopardize the new School project, which will require a town-wide vote on a tax override. 

 

The Voter Veto Petition required 864 signatures of registered Amherst voters based on voter participation in 2019. Despite obstacles to in-person canvassing during a pandemic (both to the canvassers and those opening their doors to sign) and with only a 2-week window, the group collected and submitted 1,088 signatures to the Town Clerk's office by the deadline on Tuesday, April 20th. The Town Clerk's Office had 10 DAYS (until April 30th) to certify signatures. Instead, in only ONE DAY the Town Clerk's Office disqualified 223 signatures, many erroneously, including long time Amherst residents who have been registered Amherst voters for many years. This left 842 signatures, 22 signatures short of the 864 signatures needed on the Petition. Since then, the group has collected 92 sworn affidavits from petition signers erroneously disqualified. At the very least, these 92 petition signers are legitimate Amherst VOTERS that have been disenfranchised by the Town Clerk's Office. The Town's unwillingness to redress their mistakes is tantamount to voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression. This is the opposite of the "more democracy" promised by Amherst's new Charter.

TIMELINE ON RESPONSE TO VOTER VETO PETITION

June 1st: Click HERE for VIDEO of the Board of Registrars Meeting.

May 31st: Click to read OPEN LETTER from Jon Bonifatz, Constitutional Law Attorney, to Amherst Board of Registrars, Town Manager & Town Council.

May 17th: Click HERE for PRESS RELEASE discussing Board of Registrars need to remedy wrongfully disqualified signatures. 

May 12th: Mass Live article,  Amherst's Progressive Reputation on Trial

May 11th: Click HERE for a PRESS RELEASE that provides an overview of  the May 10th Board of Registrars Meeting. 

May 10th: Click HERE for a VIDEO of the May 10th Amherst Board of Registrars' Meeting.

May 10th Meeting, VIDEO CLIP, showing Town Clerk, Susan Audette stating "mistakes get made" but claiming nothing can be done about them.

 

May 6th: Click HERE for a PRESS RELEASE that provides an overview of recent events regarding the Town's handling of the Voter Veto Petition. 

May 5th: Click HERE to read a LETTER from Constitutional Law Attorney John Bonifaz to the Amherst Board of Registrars regarding an Open Meeting Law violation.

May 4th: Click HERE to read an Open Meeting Law Violation Complaint regarding irregularities of the Board of Registrars' April 21st meeting in which the agenda did not indicate to the public that the matter of the Voter Veto Petition would be discussed. 

April 5th: Amherst Town Council voted in favor of the Jones Library Demolition-Expansion. The vote was 10 Yes, 2 No (Darcy Dumont, Sarah Swartz) with one abstention (Cathy Schoen).

WHY "SAVE" JONES LIBRARY?

The Jones Library, located in Amherst, Massachusetts is a public library unlike any other across the country. In 2019, the Jones Library celebrated 100 years of serving Amherst residents and being part of this community. 

While nearly everyone agrees the historic Jones Library needs to be renovated and its infrastructure needs to be upgraded, the 1993 brick addition does not need to be demolished to do this. Expanding the Jones Library building is based on a preference, not need. The design of the currently proposed Jones Library expansion would forever alter the Jones Library's home-like interior that makes it unique among public libraries.

This website represents Amherst residents who support a full renovation of the Jones but oppose the demolition of more than 40% of the building, including all of the ADA compliant 1993 brick addition, as well as gutting significant parts of the historic 1928 structure. The Demolition-Expansion would also destroy the Kinsey Memorial Garden, the public garden with a canopy of mature trees behind the Library. See photo below of the 1993 brick addition.

The ADA Compliant, 27-year-old brick addition was built with a metal roof that has a 50+ year lifespan. In Spring 2017, Jones Library Trustees asserted that this brick addition was designed to last only 20 years. 

Jones Rendering.jpeg

This 2017 architect's rendering

of the proposed NEW addition to be built where the 1993 brick addition now stands, illustrates the massive scale of demolition that would be needed to expand the building nearly to the edge of the property line to the adjacent CVS parking lot behind the Jones Library. 

Jones Project Rendering.png

Architect's Rendering of Jones Library Project 

The lawn and 18th Century Garden shown in the foreground at the rear of Jones Library belong to the library's neighbor, the Amherst History Museum.

Amherst residents question why deceptive drawings or renderings of the Jones Library Project, shown here, are being used and why Library Trustees hired a PR Marketing firm to sell this project. 

Anyone working with a builder to construct a new house that was shown renderings that included a neighbor’s yard and garden and trees that would need to be removed to build the house, might consider this to be "false advertising.” This current rendering of the Jones Project includes the lawn and 18th Century Garden that belong to the Jones next door neighbor, the Amherst History Museum. The tall trees behind the Jones Library in this rendering would likely not survive the extensive demolition required for the expansion of the Jones Library building. 

10 REASONS TO RENOVATE NOT EXPAND JONES LIBRARY

1. BORROWING LIMIT AND PRIORITIES:  The impact of COVID-19 on the Town budget is currently unknown. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the State set a $105 million cap on Town borrowing and the 4 capital projects were already estimated to cost more than the State would allow the Town to borrow. This fact coupled with the impact of COVID-19 budget shortfalls, will make prioritizing capital projects even more of a necessity. Three of the 4 capital projects, Schools, Fire Station, and DPW Headquarters represent the values of education, public safety and maintaining Town infrastructure. The 4th capital project, the demolition-expansion of Jones Library is controversial. The design has not been finalized. There is broad agreement that the Jones Library needs to be fully renovated and its infrastructure upgraded, and many have pointed to the benefit of reorganizing existing interior space, rather than demolishing the ADA compliant brick addition.  There is much disagreement about the need for a larger library building. 

2. LIBRARY BORROWER DATA INFLATED: Part of the justification for the Jones Library expansion is based on a formula of a town population of 40,000 to estimate the library population served. However, this figure for the Town includes 20,000 college students who nearly all use libraries on their college campuses, not the Jones Library. The actual number of Jones Library card holders is 19,000.

3. EXPANSION IS NOT NEED-BASED:  The currently proposed design was developed from a wish-list of everything library staff could imagine wanting in the Jones Library and is based on the Library Director's preference to locate all enhanced library programming under the single roof of the Jones Library. The Initial design included items such as a cafe, boutique, popcorn-machine, expensive book sorting machine etc. and ballooned up from the existing 48,000 square feet (SF) to 110,000 SF. The architects scaled back the square footage to the currently proposed 65,000 SF.  A full renovation that included reorganizing existing space at the Jones and use of the North Amherst and South Amherst branch libraries would allow enhanced library programming, along with increased access to residents outside the Town center with the added benefit of decreasing demand on downtown parking.  

4. AFFORDABILITY:  The Jones Library is already struggling to financially manage its current building size, operating at a $100,000 deficit each year and drawing down its endowment to meet its financial shortfall. Pursuing all 4 capital projects as proposed would likely require two tax overrides, which would increase Amherst's already high property taxes, resulting in the town becoming more unaffordable for more people. In addition, the 2016 cost estimate of $35.6 million for an expansion was based on construction starting in 2019.  Factoring in rising construction costs, estimated to increase at 4% per year, if construction were to begin in 2022, the project cost would rise to nearly $40 million. The $13.7 million State grant funds would not increase, raising the cost to the Town.  Click to read Lower-Cost Alternative to Jones Expansion. 

5. UNSUSTAINABLE DESIGN: Re-purposing and re-using are cornerstones of sustainability and green design. Demolishing more than 40% of the existing Jones Library building would create 1,660+ TONS of demolition debris. The Demolition-Expansion design contains no LEED certification, no solar panels and did not seek and therefore, forfeited up $450,000 in "green library" grant funding.

 UMass Amherst author and preservation expert, Max Page, describes an environmentally sustainable approach:

"In addition, saving historic places and reusing them must be a cornerstone of environmental sustainability. Nearly half of all greenhouse gases are produced in the construction, demolition, and operation of commercial and residential buildings. We need to find ways that the preservation movement can join the conservation movement to achieve more sustainable communities. For the preservation movement to fully embrace its role in the fight against global warming, we must jettison some of our concern with aesthetics. We must change what we mean by "value" in old places. We need to save and reuse even "ugly" old buildings because demolishing and replacing them contributes to the problem of climate change."  Quote from "Why Preservation Matters", Max Page, Yale University Press, 2016.

6. WASTEFUL APPROACH: Demolishing the 27-year-old, brick addition that is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) with a metal roof that has a 50+ year life span is financially and environmentally wasteful. Using a professional space planner to reorganize the interior space, replacing the leaking atrium and upgrading infrastructure systems as part of a full renovation would be a green, cost-effective approach.

7. LACK OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION: The Demolition-Expansion design did not include historic preservation as a goal in its original contract with the architects. Many historic features including the walnut staircase, walnut paneling, and historic fireplaces would be destroyed in the proposed design. Alterations proposed to the exterior facade of the historic 1928 structure would violate the Historic Preservation Restriction Agreement signed by the Town and Library Trustees. Further, as of October 2019, a required Historic Structures Report has not been completed, making premature any redesign of the Jones Library. 

8. OUT-OF-SCALE/OUT-OF-CHARACTER DESIGN: The proposed Demolition-Expansion would expand the building size to the edges of the property boundary and dwarf the Library's historic neighbors, including the 1750s era Amherst History Museum next door. The modern design would not harmonize with the historic district.  In contrast, the 1993 brick addition harmonizes in both scale and character with surrounding buildings and Amherst's historic district. 

The aerial view shows the existing footprint of the Jones Library building in RED that is already larger than all of its neighbors. The small building to the left indicated in BLUE is the 1750's Strong House, which is the home of the Amherst History Museum.

The canopy of mature trees in the Kinsey Garden at the rear of the Jones Library, indicated in GREEN, would be destroyed by the Demolition-Expansion. 

9. LOSS OF GREEN SPACE: The Demolition-Expansion would destroy the canopy of mature trees in the Kinsey Memorial Garden behind the Jones Library, and would result in the loss of this downtown green space. (See the Kinsey Garden page on this website for more information.)

10. NEW DESIGN REQUIRED: In 2018, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) announced the Jones Library project must be redesigned to be eligible for grant funding. This requirement is an opportunity for Amherst to hit the re-set button on this unsustainable design. By starting over, Library Trustees could work with the community on an environmentally sustainable approach to renovate and upgrade Jones Library within the existing building footprint. A scaled-down building project would still be eligible for an MBLC Construction Grant (see MBLC quote below).

The State library funding entity, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) states, "A Construction Project may either be a project to construct a new facility, an addition/renovation to an existing building that may or may not add space, but does involve a significant reorganization of functional space…" (Quote from MBLC agenda "Construction Projects Application Round 2016-17, Waiting List," July 13, 2017.) 

An Opportunity for a Green Design

In 2018, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) announced the Jones Library project must be redesigned to be eligible for its grant funding. This required redesign is an opportunity for Amherst to hit the re-set button on the Demolition-Expansion and develop a design for an environmentally sustainable full renovation that would upgrade Jones Library within the existing building footprint. Renovation instead of demolition would avoid the environmental impact of 1,660+ tons of demolition debris and allow Amherst to create a green, sustainable design that preserves the uniqueness of the Jones Library.

 

If you oppose the Demolition-Expansion of Jones Library, let Library Trustees and Town officials hear from you that a full renovation instead of an expansion is the reasonable approach. Voicing your priorities can make a difference!  

Click here to get involved.

"The greenest building is the one that's already built."
~  Carl Elefante, architect and sustainability expert