Austin Sarat: The costs of delaying the library project in Amherst

Published: 4/16/2021 5:01:50 PM

On April 5, the Amherst Town Council expressed overwhelming support for the plan to renovate and expand the Jones Library.

Councilors from across the town voted to authorize the necessary expenditures and to accept state funding. More than 300 people either spoke in public for or wrote to the council about the library project, with more than 70% expressing their support for the renovatioon and addition plan.

The council vote was the result of a prudent and careful examination of the costs of inaction and delay. It marks a remarkable and important moment for Amherst and is a sign of the town’s determination to revitalize its most important public buildings.

In response, one town resident has taken out the voters’ veto petition papers necessary to put the library issue on the ballot in what might be a special election. He is within his rights to do so, but before going down this road we also need to be clear-eyed about the costs of delay. There are several and they are substantial.

First, special elections cost money to conduct. Second, if town residents were to support putting the Town Council decision to the voters, that would delay by as much as a year both Amherst’s receipt of the first $2.7 million from the state, and the start of the project, adding an estimated $1.6 million to its cost. Elections, our political leaders tell us, have consequences. In the case of a voters’ veto election, Amherst residents will bear the consequences much sooner than its proponents might want them to know.

Austin Sarat

Amherst

The writer is president of the Jones Library Board of Trustees.



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