New committee forms to oppose Jones Library project in Amherst

  • The Jones Library in Amherst GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/2/2021 10:40:50 AM

AMHERST — A new ballot question committee is being formed to oppose the project to expand and renovate the Jones Library, which will be the subject of a referendum at the town’s Nov. 2 election.

Start Over Smart, or SOS, is the name of the committee whose supporters agree that the 1928 building, overhauled and expanded in the early 1990s, needs extensive improvements and that using state money from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners would be ideal.

But the group opposes the scope and the $35.3 million price tag for the proposed project and argues that there has been “scant” community outreach and that the earliest planning stages were not done right.

Plans are for the building to be expanded from 48,000 square feet to 63,000 square feet.

Start Over Smart Chairwoman Terry S. Johnson said in a statement that the plans make no sense because they are based on a user population of 51,000 borrowers, even though there are only 19,000 cardholders, and that completely demolishing and replacing the footprint of the addition from 28 years ago will cost around $7.44 million.

“Deciding to demolish the entire 1993 handicapped-accessible addition without any formal study is wasteful,” Johnson said. 

This is the second ballot committee to form. The other is in support of the project and called Vote Yes for Our Library. Vote Yes is supporting the Town Council’s 10-2 approval of the project in April.

The town plans are to commit $15.75 million for the project, matching a $13.87 million construction grant from the MBLC and $6.6 million from other private and public sources, including $1 million from the town’s Community Preservation Act account for a new special collections room.

Stare Over Smart plans to educate voters.  “I wonder whether supporters realize that 1,660 tons of building debris will be hauled to a landfill,” said Committee Treasurer Christina Platt, calling it a needless destruction and that “this oversized effort is heartbreaking.”

Ballot taking shape

An increasing number of residents are getting nomination forms to run for townwide office, or district seats on the Town Council, as the Sept. 14 at 5 p.m. deadline to return papers approaches.

Town Clerk Susan Audette is reminding residents they need to gather 50 signatures from registered voters to run for townwide office and 25 signatures of district registered voters to run for Town Council positions in one of the five districts.

Those who recently got forms from the town clerk’s office to run for Town Council are Jennifer L. Taub, of Lincoln Avenue, for a District 3 seat, and Anika M. Lopes, of Chestnut Street, and Pamela S. Rooney, of Cottage Street, both for District 4 seats.

Others who have obtained forms in District 3 are incumbents Dorothy Pam and George Ryan, and Robert Greeney of McClellan Street, and in District 4 incumbent Evan Ross

Those who have picked up papers for the at-large field, with three seats available, include incumbents Mandi Jo Hanneke and Andy Steinberg, Council President Lynn Griesemer, who has represented District 2 and picked up papers for that position, as well, Viraphanh Douangmany-Cage of Longmeadow Drive, Irvin R. Rhodes of Pondview Drive and Ellisha Walker of Autumn Lane, who has also picked up forms to run for District 5, and Greeney.

Others who have taken out papers for the five districts, which each have two councilors, include, in District 1, incumbent Cathy Schoen and Michele Miller of Old Montague Road, in District 2, incumbent Pat De Angelis, and in District 5, incumbent Shalini Bahl-Milne and Ana Devlin Gauthier of Bay Road.

Five of the six trustees for the Jones Library have gotten papers, including Alex Lefebvre, Austin Sarat, Tamson Ely, Lee Edwards, Robert Pam. The others who have nomination forms in hand are Farah Ameen, of Glendale Road, and Kimberly M. Mead of Berkshire Terrace.

For elector under the Olver Smith Will, incumbent Carol Gray and Sarah Marshall of Eames Avenue have both gotten nomination papers.

Only incumbents Michael Burkart, Nancy Schroeder and David Williams have picked up papers for the three Amherst Housing Authority seats.

School Committee

Kerry Spitzer, an incumbent on School Committee, said she is not running for reelection after serving on the panel since March 2018.

Other incumbents, Peter Demling, Ben Herrington, Heather Lord, and chairwoman Allison MacDonald, have all pulled papers to run again.

Other residents who have shown interest in being on the committee, and filling the vacant seat, include Rhodes, who served on the Amherst School Committee until 2012 and was its chairman, Mead, who is also interested in running for Jones Library trustee, and Jeffrey Lee of South East Street.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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