Selectmen Punt on Library-Car Wash Idea. Go to Planning Board Tonight, or send an E-mail.

Belmont Library

The stacks at Belmont’s Main Branch library. Now try to imagine a giant squeegee descending from the ceiling! 😉

Summary: The discussion of the Planning Board’s idea to move our Public Library to the Belmont Car Wash on Trapelo Road (wha??) moves to the Senior Center tonight (TUE) where the full Planning Board will discuss the matter. If you can’t make it, I’ve provided email addresses for Planning Board members so you can make your feelings known. 

Hey folks. Just an update on the outcome from last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting where the Planning Board’s out-of-left-field idea to relocate the main branch of the Belmont Public Library from Concord Ave to the Belmont Car Wash site on Trapelo Road was discussed.

Long and short: the Selectmen punted on this last night – and rightly so. The clear message from Chairman Williams and Selectmen Dash and Paolillo was that the Board of Selectmen isn’t the right body to be weighing this proposal – at least not at this stage. Rather, the Planning Board should be working with the elected body with direct responsibility over the Public Library, namely: the Library Board of Trustees.

Speaking as someone who follows town politics closely, let me say that the decision by Planning Board Chairwoman Liz Allison to allow the Car Wash/Library plan by Planning Board member Raffi Manjikian to be aired in public on July 11th without first consulting the Library Board of Trustees was – frankly – a jaw dropping breach of protocol. It is, without question, an act of deep disrespect to that elected Board and, by extension, the voters and the whole community.

I agree with Mrs. Allison that Belmont needs good and creative ideas to steer our way around some tricky financial and capital challenges in the years ahead. However, it is also important to work within the process and respect the purview of other appointed and – especially – elected bodies like the Library Board of Trustees. Speaking as the chairman of a Town committee myself (IT Advisory Committee), I can say that turning every idea that bubbles in your committee into a formal proposal to be voted on just isn’t good policy – especially when said policies concern a beloved local institution like the Library. This is a mess – and an avoidable one at that.

In any case, the point was made frequently, though politely, to Mrs. Allison in her appearance before the Board last night that any plans concerning the Public Library should be managed in cooperation with the Library Board of Trustees, which has fiduciary responsibility for the Library. Chair of that Board Kathy Keohane was in attendance seconded that and indicated that the Board was anxious to speak with Mrs. Allison about the Planning Board’s ideas.

For her part, Mrs. Allison seemed insistent that the Planning Board first vote on its cockamamie plan – thereby making it an official Board proposal – and that then she’d be willing to discuss it with the Library. It wouldn’t make sense to discuss it with the Library until its an official proposal Mrs. Allison said, in defiance of all logic.

So – long and short – you’re going to have to drag yourself out to the Planning Board meeting this evening. It starts at 7:00 PM and will convene in the Auditorium at the Beech Street Center (aka The Senior Center). The Board is scheduled to first discuss the access road for Belmont Day School, which is a very contentious issue and may be debated for quite a while. It could consume the entire evening, but play it safe and plan on showing up around 8:00PM?

The other option – and just as effective – is to email the Planning Board members with your feelings about their plan to relocate the Public Library. Their names and emails are:

Thanks! See you tonight.