GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Ramsdell Library in Housatonic will draw extra scrutiny in the coming months as the town explores preservation efforts that may not be agreeable to everyone.
Three articles regarding the library -- two concerning building improvements -- have been placed on the warrant for May's annual town meeting. Documentation is also being readied so the state Historical Commission can consider placing the library on the National Register of Historic Places.
The library board of trustees is urging that immediate repairs be done to the more than 100-year-old building, but not everyone agrees that the library fits into the town's long-term plans. Board of trustees chairwoman Holly Hamer described the library as a
"People tend to think the Ramsdell is just for Housatonic residents, but we would like to offer events and opportunities to encourage Great Barrington [residents] to come out," Hamer said. "It has an incredible gem in the upstairs theater that is unique."
The library's current operating budget is $180,000, Library Director Kate Deviny said. The cost for repairs has been estimated to be as high as $2 million, but the board said that expense will be reduced if the repairs are phased in.
Town staff have suggested a plan that would allocate $2 million in
"We do not believe the town will vote for it," Hamer said. "That will leave us again doing nothing for Ramsdell."
The three articles that voters will be asked to consider at Town Meeting include a total appropriation of $39,500 for the library. Of that sum, $22,000 is a request from the board of trustees to use unspent library funds to hire a consultant; $15,000 is slated for storage, shelving, lighting and other improvements; and $2,500 has been requested to hire a part-time intern to assist both the library and the Historic Commission.
In its current condition, Hamer said the library can't be utilized for public meetings because it is not in compliance with regulations required by the Americans for Disabilities Act.
The upstairs theater is underutilized because it lacks heating and cooling systems, she said.
Deviny said a consultant has compiled all the paperwork the library needs to apply for its historical designation. The state review process could last a year, she said.
The Ramsdell Public Library was built in 1906 using $25,000 bequest in the will of Theodore Ramsdell and deeded to the town in 1908. It sits on the site of the first house that was built in Housatonic. It is the first structure that was built to be a library in Great Barrington, Deviny said.
To reach John Sakata:
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