Request revives talks of new library

The town-owned property at 35 Wolfe Ave. in Beacon Falls. The Library Board of Trustees has requested a building committee be formed for a joint library/community center to be built at the property. –LUKE MARSHALL

The town-owned property at 35 Wolfe Ave. in Beacon Falls. The Library Board of Trustees has requested a building committee be formed for a joint library/community center to be built at the property. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — Library officials are looking to resuscitate a discussion about building a new media/community center at the town-owned property on Wolfe Avenue.

The Beacon Falls Library Board of Trustees voted last week to formally request that the Board of Selectmen convene a building committee for a joint library/community center to be built at 35 Wolfe Ave.

In August 2008, voters approved buying the house and property at 35 Wolfe Ave. for $425,000. According to the resolution at the time, the town intended to use the property for a library or other community service.

In August 2010, the now-defunct Wolfe Avenue Lewis House Exploratory Committee recommended razing the house, which used to be the home of Tracy Lewis, the president of the Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Co.

The house is still standing and the proposal to build a new library/community center never got off the ground.

This year, the library requested $39,000 be put in the 2016-17 municipal budget for architectural drawings for the new building.

The Board of Finance chose not to fund the request because it felt it was premature. Instead, the board put $1,000 in the budget to fund a clerk for a building committee.

Library Director Sue Dowdell said the library’s current space on the top floor of the Town Hall is too small. The library is 1,200 square feet, she said, adding the Americans with Disabilities Act states that it needs to be at least 5,000 square feet.

Dowdell said computers and nonfiction books are in the same small room, with barely enough space for either.

“If people want to reach the nonfiction books they have difficulty doing so. If we want to make it easy to reach we would have to remove our computers or several hundred items,” Dowdell said.

Dowdell said the library’s importance to the community stretches beyond just the books on its shelves.

“A library is much more than books. A library needs to have room for people,” Dowdell said.

The Board of Selectmen is expected to take up creating a building committee at its June meeting.
“We understand collectively there is a process we need to do to do this the right way. It is on our agenda for June’s meeting and we will discuss the path to make sure we are approaching it in the best way possible,” Bielik said.

Bielik feels the creation of a building committee is the right way to proceed with the future of the property and wants to make sure the committee is filled with a diverse group of people.

While the town has been slow moving on the property in the past, Dowdell said time is now of the essence.

“We would like to see a building committee put together no later than September,” Dowdell said. “Our strategic plan is to have a library and community center built by June of 2021 at the same time as the 150th anniversary of the town.”