SOUTHINGTON — Plans for a new Southington Public Library building will be shelved for now.
The Town Council, during a meeting held remotely Monday night, voted unanimously to postpone referring the proposed $13.9 million project to the Planning & Zoning Commission and Board of Finance.
The council, when it reconvenes on April 27, is expected to hold a vote that would effectively postpone any decision on the project until 2021.
Council members reached Wednesday said they still support upgrading the current 45-year-old library building — whether those upgrades include a new facility or renovations to the existing one. The most recent plans proposed by library officials would have replaced the current building on Main Street with a new 25,550 square foot facility. It had been scaled down in size and cost from previous proposals. Council members who spoke with the Record-Journal made clear the vote to table the project did not mean they had opposed building a new library.
“I've said from day one that I want a new library,” said Town Council Chairwoman Victoria Triano. “And I want the best library we can afford.”
Triano, who was speaking on behalf of herself and not the council as a whole, said the council had to also recognize the reality posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. She described that reality, including financial hardships, as “unprecedented.”
Town Council member Paul Chaplinksy Jr. said he also supported upgrading the current building.
“The discussion on a new library has obviously been in the back of people's minds for quite some time,” he said. “Not something that can be ignored indefinitely. I think the right decision was made, given the uncertainty and the economic difficulties we are going through.”
Fellow council member Chris Palmieri, who formerly sat on the library's Board of Directors, felt similarly.
“I absolutely support the library,” he said. “But the timing, it didn't feel appropriate with everything going on — not only in town, but the economy, with so many people out of work. It doesn't seem to be the time to put a big ticket item forward.”
Palmieri said he didn't feel much would change two weeks from now when the council is scheduled to meet again.
Joanne Kelleher, a member of the library board of directors who chairs the new library planning committee, expressed disappointment.
The current building has accessibility issues and is non-compliant with several building and fire codes. It also doesn't have adequate space to hold community events and to accommodate its children's department, Kelleher said.
“The town is going to need to do something, because the building is starting to fall apart,” Kelleher said. “I'm hoping that a year from now that perhaps they will be able to not only move forward, but that perhaps the situation will be such that, for the same amount of money perhaps we could get a larger building than we were planning for.”