Library building plan worth cost

There is no doubt that Milford’s Wadleigh Memorial Library has some structural problems with its building or, really, two buildings – the original 1950 structure and the 1986 addition. All were detailed in The Cabinet’s report last week regarding a tour of the facility conducted by Joel Trafford, the Wadleigh’s facilities manager, and Ron Lamarre, an architect, who showed plans of a proposed new building.

The plan, which is interesting, to say the least, would cost a total of $5.46 million with the bill to taxpayers coming in at $4.96 million.

For some, the cost will be an issue, but we don’t think it should be. Things cost what they cost, and given the way the plan is structured, it seems to make sense: The project would be completed in three stages.

Stage 1: A new 8,100-square-foot additon would be built in front of the existing library and go nearly to the sidewalk on Nashua Street.

Stage 2: The 1980 addition would be demolished and rebuilt.

Stage 3: The 1950 original building would be demolished and rebuilt.

In this way, the library would remain open to patrons even as work was going on. That’s good. According to library officials, the Wadleigh is one of the busiest in the state and its patronage continues to grow. That’s also good. Every town needs a good library, and Milford certainly has one.

We think, though, that the area of concern for voters, once the plan gets onto the town warrant (and that might not happen this year) is bringing the building down to the sidewalk. The argument is that it is in keeping with other buildings along Nashua Street and the Oval, in particular Town Hall.

That’s true, but will it be enough truth to convince voters to agree to do away with that lovely slope of lawn leading up to the library? It is a sight many residents like, it seems, and might not care to see disappear.

Or are we wrong about that? Perhaps. And if that is the case, if voters are not enamoured of that sloping lawn, then we can see no reason not to support the library’s proposal.

And if voters really like it, then we think the sooner it is put onto the warrant the better. As we know all too well, the prices of building materials and construction do not come down with the passage of time and there is no way of knowing what the cost will be if the proposal is stalled for two or three years.

In the past, though, Milford voters have been reluctant to approve a plan for any major facility the first time they’re asked. That happened with the middle school and, most recently, the new police station. It took four votes to get the latter and in the three years that the plan was defeated, guess what: Prices for materials and construction went up.

That will most certainly happen with the library costs if delay becomes the mantra.

It is eminently clear to us that something needs to be done about the shape the Wadleigh is in. Moisture, flooding, celings that are falling apart, a strcturally unsound wall, rotted windows in the children’s room that can’t be opened and with window panes that sometimes fall out.

Something needs to be done and a Band-Aid approach is not the answer because it seldom is the answer.

The key is how voters feel about bringing the library down to the sidewalk and the loss of that stretch of grass.

If it’s no big deal, then fine: Let’s get this plan on the warrant and get it approved.

If it is a big deal to voters, well, that’s a book that might not have a happy ending.