The Winthrop Town Council wants more information before it agrees to waive about $74,000 in town fees related to the construction of a new public library.
Friends of the Winthrop Public Library (FOWL) had asked the town to forgo Westernization and building permit assessments including legal fees, permit application and plan review fees, and charges for hooking up to the town’s sewer and water systems.
FOWL, a local nonprofit, is raising private funds to build the new library. A $2 million state grant has also been allocated for the project. The library will be built on a .81-acre parcel property purchased by the Town of Winthrop at the intersection of White Avenue and Norfolk Road. FOWL subsequently acquired private funds to purchase an adjacent .92-acre parcel to provide more room for parking and better traffic flow.
The 7,300-square-foot completed building will be turned over to the town of Winthrop. It will include community space that will be maintained by the town.
Several council members raised questions about whether the town should waive the fees – even though Mayor Sally Ranzau pointed out more than once that “it’s our building.”
“This is a lot of expense for us,” council member Bill McAdow said. “Lots of staff expenses and paperwork. These fees aren’t just arbitrary.”
“It’s a town building, built on town property,” Ranzau countered.
Council member Ben Nelson supported Ranzau. “If we were building a building, would we charge ourselves?” he asked.
McAdow said that “I don’t feel comfortable with the way they [FOWL] are asking … It’s a big ask right now. Those costs should be part of their budget.”
Nelson argued that the costs “are part of our commitment under our contract” with FOWL for the construction of the new library. “It would be a reasonable assumption [by FOWL] that they wouldn’t be charged,” Nelson said.
Council members William Kilby, Kirsten Vanderhalf and Joseph O’Driscoll also expressed reservations about waiving the fees. “They should have known this the whole time, in theory,” Vanderhalf said.
Ranzau said she will review the town’s costs and ability to absorb them, and invite FOWL representatives to the April 1 council meeting. “I’ll get some more precise figures for you,” the mayor said.
“I’m fine with letting it simmer for a few weeks,” McAdow said. “I don’t mind hearing a sales pitch.”
“I don’t blame them [FOWL] for trying,” O’Driscoll added.
Groundbreaking for the new library is expected in early summer 2020, with opening scheduled for early 2022. The building is being designed by Johnston Associates and PBW Architects, and will replace the existing, cramped facility in Winthrop.
In other business, the council adopted a “proclamation of local emergency” that allows the town to take appropriate measures, as defined under state law, to “protect public health, safety and welfare in the town.”