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OPINION: A good reason to pause library project in Southington

Democrats are right to call for a pause in the project for a new public library in Southington. Republicans are right, too, but they are less right. Considering the situation, it would be a good idea to heed the reservations of the minority party. The library is going to be around for a long time, taking a little extra time to get it right won’t be remembered for as long as the library will.

Why are the Republicans right? Because they thought it was a done deal. The project was approved, the intent of voters fulfilled. Time to move on to the many more pressing issues facing municipal government.

But that’s not right enough. Since voters approved spending $17 million for a new library in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, the project has suffered from pandemic-related stresses, which basically add up to what everyone can find familiar, rising costs that keep a dollar from stretching as far as one might like.

So there have been compromises and compromises, which include reducing the size of the building, and doubt has been growing like a setting sun shadow. Doubt reached an apex of sorts when the Planning and Zoning Commission approved it while simultaneously criticizing it. 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes, and in this case the renderings of what the building is going to look like, which appeared in the Record-Journal … let’s just say they have not been drawing raves.

There’s always the idea that what counts is what goes on inside. For exhibit A consider the Ball & Socket Arts building in Cheshire, long a place where they made buttons, now home to arts initiatives.

But I get it. This place is going to be a symbol of Southington, out there for everyone to see. 

“There’s nothing attractive about the building that I saw, to be blunt,” said Bob Hammersley, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, when the plans for the library were approved. “I don’t like the way that this looks.”

“I have confidence in the building committee doing their job and doing an excellent job,” said Republican Council Chairwoman Victoria Triano, during a recent discussion. “The facade of the building, with all the peaks, I think it’s going to look very nice.”

Yet you might consider it a red flag that discussion of expansion is already taking place. I keep thinking of the day they’re going to dedicate the building, a day of town-wide celebration, no doubt. You don’t want people wondering if they’ve made a big mistake on a day like that.

That’s why it’s time to heed the Democrats. There are just three on the council, Valerie DePaolo, Chris Palmieri and Jack Perry, and there is no reason to listen to them other than the reason that comes with common sense. 

“In response to a groundswell of support for our position, we are formally requesting that you call for an immediate vote to pause the Southington Library construction project to allow for further public discussion on the path forward,” they wrote.

Who knows if voters would want to spend more money on a project they thought they’d already approved. Time is running out to explore that question, as well as others. The council meets Monday.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.






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