Monday, August 10, 2009

Building with carts and horses

In a letter to the editor in the Aug. 8 Post Crescent, Jonathon Pettit wrote:

Anyone who has searched the stacks or tried to find an open chair only to be "up close and personal" with a stroller can attest to the need for more space at the Appleton library. You also would agree if you had ever had to place a reservation for one of 28 public computers on the second floor.
But he also added:
It seems that the discussion of library expansion has put the "cart before the horse." Debate is framed upon what the architects and engineers want to build instead of what the taxpayer can afford.
In response, a word about discussions, debates and decisions:
  • I think the discussion, and the initial debate, are quite rightly framed on the questions of "what does the community want?" and "what is required to provide good, efficient service in response to long-term community needs?"
  • Thus it's not at all about what architects and engineers want. Architects and engineers design to meet needs expressed by their clients.
  • Members of the community, both directly and through their representatives on the City Council, are quite right to ask Library Board and staff to explain wants, needs and options.
  • The question of what the taxpayers can afford absolutely must and will be addressed before any decisions are made. The City of Appleton has a levy restraint ordinance and is committed to keeping long-term indebtedness at a fraction of the maximum allowable.
  • Cities have to maintain infrastructures, including public facilities. To meet community needs and enhance the quality of life, cities build and maintain streets, storm drains, parks, and buildings such as police stations and libraries. Not all at once, but each in turn as needed and affordable.
  • Nobody is advocating building a library for years yet.
  • Nobody is advocating spending money we won't have.
  • Anything wanted that goes beyond what the taxpayers can afford should be funded through privately raised funding.
So I'll respectfully disagree with Mr. Pettit. I think the horses and carts are lining up just right. But I want to reassure him that this City is a long way from a decision -- and his concerns must be addressed in that decision.

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