Monday evening is the big moment for Mason Square residents who've been waiting for six years to get a full library branch restored to their neighborhood. That's when the City Council will vote on a proposal to take by eminent domain 765 State St., which had been the community's library until 2003, when the Springfield Library & Museums Association sold it to the Springfield Urban League in a secretive deal.
But don't be late: While Council meetings typically start at 7:30, the library vote will come up in a special meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m., in the Council Chambers in City Hall.
Neighborhood residents have been calling for a couple of years for the city to take the building back. That's caused knots in the bellies of some in City Hall, who are wary of ticking off Urban League President Henry Thomas, whose political influence includes his frequent campaign donations to state and local politicians (including Councilors Jimmy Ferrera, Jose Tosado and Bud Williams and Mayor Domenic Sarno).
It now appears, however, that the stars are aligning for a land-taking. That's due, in large part, to a recent vote by the Springfield Library Foundation (a non-profit that controls a trust fund earmarked for library services in Mason Square) that would relieve the city of the financial and legal costs of a taking. Earlier this month, the Foundation, headed by former Mayor (and library champion) Charlie Ryan, voted to reimburse the city for the cost of taking the property, as well as for any resulting legal costs. In addition, the Foundation would contribute to operating expenses at the branch for three years.
That deal should, presumably, address the concerns of some city councilors-notably, Bill Foley and Jimmy Ferrera-who previously have expressed concerns about the city bearing the costs associated with a taking.
On Monday, the Council will vote on whether to appropriate the money (which would subsequently be reimbursed by the Library Foundation) for a taking. Because that's a financial order, it needs the support of six of the nine councilors.
Five councilors have already been consistently on board: Pat Markey, Rosemarie Mazza Moriarty, Tim Rooke, Jose Tosado and Bud Williams. Backers are hoping at least one of the four councilors who voted against a taking on two earlier, non-binding resolutions-Ferrera, Foley, Bruce Stebbins and Kateri Walsh-will have a change of heart next week.
In a recent email to library supporters, Kat Wright of the Mason Square Library Advisory Committee urged residents to make their voices heard on the matter, either by coming to Monday's meeting or, if they can't make it, by contacting councilors beforehand. "Let's make sure the City Council can see for themselves how great is the support for returning our library to the families of Mason Square. Let's PACK the Council chamber!" Wright wrote.
Contact information for the City Council is:
James J. Ferrera, III
33 Palmyra Street, 01118
William T. Foley, President
221 Wildwood Avenue, 01118
95 Osborne Terrace, 01104
Timothy J. Rooke
50 Overlook Drive, 01118
Bruce W. Stebbins, Vice President
521 Plumtree Road, 01118
22 Birch Glen Drive, 01129
42 Magnolia Terrace, 01108
Bud L. Williams
71 Joanne Road, 01119