, Newburyport, MA

May 21, 2013

Salisbury votes to build new library


---- — SALISBURY — With a deafening roar and a vote of 316 to 34, Town Meeting approved borrowing to build a new library last night. It will be the jewel of the community, advocates said, indicating the community’s pride and sense of service to its residents.

After a half hour of debate, voters pushed the project over its final hurdle, authorizing Salisbury to build a $7.5 million library, to be paid for with a $3.8 million state grant, $400,000 in private contributions and $3.3 million in bonds to be paid back. The average cost to each taxpayer will be about $50 a year, for about a five year period, after which the debt service on the bonds will be absorbed into the town’s annual budget.

For the money, Salisbury gets a modern, handicapped-accessible, 17,000-square-foot, two-story edifice, with space for meeting and study rooms, 18 computers, adult, children’s and young adult sections to replace its current 3,000-square-foot library bursting at the seams.

Voters cast their votes after many spoke about what the new library would mean, including Town Manager Neil Harrington. He told Town Meeting his favorite story about New York City’s late Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who during the darkest days of the Great Depression order the city library to remain open 24-hours a day at great expense during dire times. When La Guardia was asked why, Harrington said the answer from the depression-era mayor was: “I can’t provide bread for every table, but I can at least provide intellectual nourishment and food for their souls.”

The new library will send an unmistakable message of hope, Harrington said.

“Leave a legacy to our children and grandchildren that will outlive us all,” Harrington said, as he asked voter to please pass the question.

Not everyone spoke in favor of passage. Some, like beach resident Paula Moore, said the library could cost more than $50 per household per year and things could go wrong to extend the payments beyond five years.

But newly elected Selectman Freeman Condon spoke to the undecided voters, as he was until recently after a visit to the library showed him it was so small the handicapped can’t maneuver.

Condon answered those who believe tablet readers like Kindles will replace the need for library, telling of how his father read “Black Beauty” to he and his siblings when they were young.

“To those who said the future of reading is a Kindle, I say to them ‘baloney,” Condon said. “The future of books is books. No tablet is going to replace the tactile feel of a book.

“This project is about civic pride,” Condon continued. “I want to send a message on this muggy night in May that Salisbury cares very much about its elderly and its kids and its kids’ kids. Built it once. Build it right. Build it now.”