MERIDEN — The City Council voted Monday night to bond $7.8 million for a full renovation of the public library, opting against a $9.3 million plan that would have renovated and expanded the 46-year-old building.
Despite a majority of councilors in attendance supporting the $9.3 million plan, the council ultimately approved the lower-priced project because there were not enough votes to pass the higher-price option.
Because the library upgrades will put the city over its annual bonding cap, the City Charter requires that a total of eight votes were needed to pass either plan. Of the 10 councilors in attendance, only seven supported the $9.3 million renovation and expansion.
After a lengthy discussion, councilors in favor of the $9.3 million project conceded they lacked the votes and agreed to approve the lower-priced plan, which was unanimously approved.
“I don’t think it’s responsible for us to just walk away and do nothing,” said Deputy Mayor Michael Cardona, a Democrat.
“A full renovation is far, far better than what’s now there,” Democratic Councilor Brian Daniels said.
Councilors who supported the $9.3 million project were Democrats David Lowell, Miguel Castro, Cathy Battista, Bruce Fontanella, Sonya Jelks, Daniels and Cardona. Republican Dan Brunet and We the People Councilors Walter Shamock and Joseph Carabetta III were opposed. Both councilors not in attendance — Democrat Larue Graham and We the People councilor Bob Williams — had also expressed opposition to the $9.3 million plan.
Last month, the Library Building Review Committee voted to recommend the $9.3 million renovation and expansion over the $7.8 full renovation and a $5.3 million partial renovation because they felt that the expansion and addition gave the city the best value for its money. The committee also concluded the expansion would give the library additional space that is needed for programming. According to standards established by the State Library, Meriden’s roughly 45,000-square-foot library is about 11,000 square feet less than what it should be given the city’s population and demographics.
While all councilors agreed some work needs to be done to keep the library viable, they differed on how much they were willing to spend on the project.
Some councilors weren’t comfortable approving the most expensive of the three options given what the council has already recently bonded for other projects, including the high school tracks and fields, new airport hangars at Meriden Markham Airport, and a new banquet hall at Hunter’s Memorial Golf Course.
The $7.8 million project “will lessen the burden on the taxpayer, and yet would accomplish most” of the library goals, Shamock said. Those goals include an expanded teen and children’s center and more multipurpose space for meetings.
Councilors who supported the expansion and renovation argued the $1.5 million difference in the projects’ cost isn’t that great and that it would be shortsighted to forgo the expansion, which would have added 9,000 square feet onto the library.
The $7.8 million project will upgrade and enlarge the children's room by about 1,000 square feet (about 1,000 fewer than the larger project), the multipurpose area by about 1,200 square feet (about 1,200 fewer) and the teen area by about 1,400 square feet (about 100 fewer).