The Weston Public Library will receive $82,500 in long-awaited State funds following action by the State's Bonding Commission on December 18.
A State Library Construction grant was awarded to Weston a year ago , but funds have been held up as Hartford continues to wrestle with how much in total the State should borrow. The grant pays half the cost of renovating the Library's Children's Room. The Town and the Library Board were required to come up with the rest.
Given the age of bids for the project, it is not immediately clear that costs have not risen in the intervening time and that the intended funding will be sufficient. Earlier this week, State Senator Tony Hwang told Weston Today he plans to reach out to Governor Ned Lamont to see if an accommodation for that can be made.
“I love our libraries!" said Senator Hwang. "The Weston Public Library plays a vital role in being Weston’s community center and as an invaluable treasure in educating the next generation through its children’s room.”
The Senator also lauded Weston's Library staff and his colleagues in the legislature for the release of funds. "I also want to commend the town of Weston, Weston Library Director Karen Tatarka, its Public Library Board members, our entire bipartisan state delegation, and the countless volunteers for working together to secure the much needed funds toward final completion of this long overdue library renovation project."
The project includes interior renovations to make the room more hospitable and upgrade the building's energy conservation. Lighting, windows, and ventilation fans will be modernized, and asbestos found in window caulk will be removed.
Library Director Karen Tatarka said, "The Weston Library is thankful for Senator Hwang and the bipartisan state delegation’s support throughout the State Library Construction Grant process. The children's department is the most rapidly growing department in the library, and the community has been greatly anticipating the creation of a flexible, modern space. With the guidance of Children's and Young Adult Librarian Alessandra Petrino, we are excited to re-invent the space to suit the wide range of educational, technological, and social needs."
Senator Will Haskell wrote a letter to Governor Lamont in August advocating for the Weston project and the speedy release of funds. "The Weston Public Library plays a vital role in bringing the community together and educating the next generation," he said.
Senator Haskell thanked the State Bond Commission and Governor Lamont, and said, "I also want to commend the town of Weston for working to secure matching funds for the project. Thanks to the wonderful team working tirelessly to make this renovation a reality, the library will remain a comfortable and enlightening gathering place for years to come."
Weston's 50 percent match came from $15,000 previously budgeted by the Town plus $41,500 supplied by the Library Board from its endowment and a $26,000 supplemental appropriation authorized by the boards of Selectmen and Finance last year.
Aspetuck Land Trust's application to help fund its proposed acquisition of Weston's Fromson-Strassler property may progress as a result of other action taken by the Bonding Commission.
Among the stopgap measures taken this week before a complete bonding package is approved in January, the Commission authorized borrowing $5 million to fund the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Program.
The program is designed to provide financial assistance to municipalities and nonprofit conservation organizations to acquire land for open space. ALT's application was filed several months ago. If the application is approved, the State would fund up to 65 percent of the purchase price, with ALT raising the rest.
There was general agreement in the boards of Selectmen and Finance last year that a sale of Fromson-Strassler would be good for Weston. At that time, the property was appraised, preliminarily, at a value of just over $1 million. But with the grant application in limbo, negotiations and discussions about an actual purchase price have not taken place. If a deal ever consummates, it would require the approval of voters.