Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A cry from the heart

Fifteen hundred people who use the Lancaster Public Library (Duke Street branch) each day have been deprived of the total upgrading and renovation of the building, for the first time since its construction in 1953. In an effort to reverse the startling reversal and impending action of the Library Board of Trustees, NewsLanc's publisher and library Project Manager Robert Edwin Field sent the following email letter. It proved of no avail.

October 23, 2008

To: Gary Weaver, Vice President, Lancaster Public Library

From: Robert Field, Project Manager

Copy: John McGrann, Bob Miller, Debra Rosser-Hogben, Karen Field

Re: Lancaster Public Library


I am writing to you from Los Angeles. I was shocked a couple of hours ago to learn through my son Benjamin that the Board , under your ‘leadership’, had unanimously decided to turn down a half million dollar grant from the State and a half million dollar grant from Karen and me, and to trash $400,000 in architectural and engineering outlays plus the product of a year’s work by its president Karen and, considerable work on my part as Project Manager.

I would like for the record to remind you and the others of the following:

1) Earlier this year, the board unanimously approved moving ahead with the renovation and expansion of the library, a project that through the diligent efforts of Penncrest Construction, Debra, Vitetta, Karen , myself and others has come in on budget, a figure approximately 15% less than you had estimated would be the cost. If you want to suggest that the pricing professionally developed by Penncrest through solicitation of suppliers and contractors over the past six weeks is somehow unreliable, I think you should be prepared to defend an action for libel.

2) Upon the assumption of $3,000,000 in State grants, the board decided to proceed with the design of the project. Subsequently when the board was advised by Mayor Rick Gray that $2,500,000 of the $3,000,000 would not be forthcoming, the board decided to continue with the planning of the project. Furthermore, the balance of $500,000, the Keystone Grant, would also be lost because the renovation and expansion could no longer be assured of funding.

3) The library has over $3,300,000 on hand according to the most recently report and has received a bequest for about $500,000 which counsel advises us should be collectible.

4) According to consultants Todd Lindsley and Pat Stockwell, major donors had committed to contributing at least $2,500,000 towards the expansion and renovation of the library.

5) Karen and I had proposed and, through the unstinting efforts of Representative Mike Sturla and Mayor Rick Gray, the State has agreed to provide the $500,000 grant towards the renovation of the existing facility. The total cost based upon analysis of information on hand is estimated to come to about $2,300,000. With $500,000 from the Grant, $500,000 from Karen and me, only $1,300,000 remains to be covered. It is likely that much of that amount would be funded by those promising $2,500,000, and this was before we even commence a public fund raising campaign. And if there were a shortfall of several hundred thousand dollars, the library could readily pay the difference from its endowment fund.

I realize that the nation may be entering a recession, but there is so little money yet to be raised ($1,300,000) and such excellent prospect from major donors, county and conceivably a later state grant, that I see no serious concern to cause the cancellation of this project.

Among the many benefits of the $2,300,000 renovation would be: Major repairs to the HVAC system, installation of two modern rest rooms, installation of a fire sprinkler system throughout, installation of a ramp for the physically challenged, and a security and communication system.

In addition, the first floor would be fully renovated with new ceilings, lighting fixtures, floor coverings, new service desks and new furniture throughout. The same would apply to about half of the second floor with some improvements to the rest.

Debra met with Jim Keller, Mark Hodges, Karen and me at Vitetta Tuesday afternoon and said she was satisfied with all of the proposed layouts and renovations.

You and your fellow board members are unnecessarily depriving our community and especially our school children of a fully upgraded, modern library. Expansion as originally contemplated will still be desirable at some future point in time. Current renovations are compatible with the planned expansion.

The mayor’s letter and the Application for Revision of Scope needs to be sent off to the State by the end of tomorrow. I will recommend to Karen that she do so, since no harm will be done or cost incurred by her action while much will be lost if she doesn’t.

I encourage the Board to regain control of its nerves and to meet on Tuesday morning or some other time this coming week to reconsider its actions. I believe the Lancaster community will also find the boards actions unwarranted and regrettable.

Under Karen's brave, able and unstinting leadership, the library was regaining vitality and direction in various areas. The Board's rash action of earlier today will likely doom it to years of further rudderless dysfunction and growing failure to fulfill its responsibilities to our community.

I end with the observation that it is the very people who did the least to contribute to the progress of the past year who are undermining the work of its President, Project Manager, State Representative and Mayor. Perhaps had board members devoted more time and effort to the project, they would be better advised and act more rationally.

Please share this letter with all members of the library board since all need to reflect on the consequences of its rash actions. They all will suffer the public opprobrium that will follow the scrapping of this desirable and worthy project.