Referendum for Jones Library project on Amherst Town Council agenda

Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2021 7:59:23 PM

AMHERST — Town Council may consider having the $36.3 million Jones Library project brought to a referendum at this fall’s town election.

An action item on Monday’s council agenda, which could involve a discussion, motions and votes, is for “placement of a question on the ballot at the November 2, 2021 town election concerning the measure voted by the Town Council on April 5, 2021 approving the borrowing for the expansion and renovation of the Jones Library.”

“This item will allow the Town Council to decide if we want to place a referendum question regarding the Jones Library on the ballot,” said Council President Lynn Griesemer.

The council’s 10-2 vote, with one abstention, last spring authorized $15.75 million in borrowing to renovate and expand the Amity Street building for the first time since an addition was completed in 1993. The borrowing matches a $13.87 million construction grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Plans developed for the project show the library would increase in size from 48,000 to 63,000 square feet, while its interior would be modernized while providing sufficient space for services and making numerous repairs to air-handling systems, wiring, carpets and elevators. The building would also get a dedicated teen space, a bigger children’s room so that more families can participate in programs, an enlarged and climate-controlled area for special collections and improved space for the English as a Second Language program.

Some residents, though, have pursued a voter veto under provisions of the town charter, which, if successful, would force the council to reconsider its vote and put the project to a townwide vote. The petitioners needed to collect 864 certified signatures, or 5% of registered voters in town. Though 1,088 signatures were turned in, just 842 were certified by the town clerk’s office.

Since the certification, the petitioners have filed legal action in a bid to get enough signatures validated, and Hampshire Superior Court Judge Richard J. Carey recently informed them that he would review all signatures submitted at a hearing on Aug. 23. He has also suggested that the secretary of state could intervene in the matter.

In addition to the discussion on voluntarily adding a referendum to the town election, the council’s agenda also includes an executive session related to the lawsuit, known as Terry Y. Allen et al. vs. Board of Registrars of the town of Amherst.

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

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