|Ruthless social pressure on the matter of aspirin.|
A while back I exchanged a series of emails with Sierra Madre's City Manager about the Library Survey Postcard, which makes its appearance this week. Hopefully that is true and the long wait has finally come to an end. The cause of our correspondence was a comment that had been left on this blog a couple of times. Whoever made it was pretty persistent, so I figured I should finally follow up. This is what the commenter asked:
I get tired of asking but how many bids did the City get to bring the Library up to code? And, what is the amount of those bids. There has to be more than one bid to know anything at all. If it's just one bid how do we really know the truth?
All in all not a bad question. I forwarded this to the City Manager, and here is how he responded:
We’ve been asked this question a few times, here are the main elements which inform cost: electrical survey, engineering structural analysis, engineering and property condition assessment, ADA analysis and report, Library Facility Master Plan (this includes elements of ADA, accessibility, building condition, and structural analysis).
The estimate for bids will be different based on the how many projects we bid at once and which items are urgent and which can be phased in overtime. The estimate from the "Master Plan" report is $1.398 million.
Each of these should be available online in easy to access format soon.
I took that to mean the answer is no, and that there would only be one set of numbers, which are available as part of something something called the "Library Facilities Master Plan." That, along with a lot of other information (some of which IMHO is not quite as vital as those who wrote it had hoped it would be), can be found on the city's website under the somewhat loaded word "Transparency." You can get to that by clicking here.
Now I would encourage you to go and read this stuff for yourself. Not only to get information you might or might not agree with, but also as a life lesson in how difficult transparency can often be. Rarely is information as clear or precise as we'd hoped, and there are reasons for that. Human fallibility being foremost amongst them. It is why God put erasers of pencils. Or, for that matter, also gave us matches.
It is also why basic information might be labeled "transparency." Not only because transparency defines a rational understanding of a situation, but also because in the end there is so very little of that in life. Then again, if this information was transparent, and only dealt with truth distilled down to its purest essence, how much would you need?
That said, and if you are pressed for time, here are most most essential numerical elements for the existing library. This is how much money the city would get if they sold that property. Either some of it, or all of it.
Here is how much you would have to spend to fix the current Library. Please note that if you sold both parcels of that property you would not be able to spend all of the money raised on the current Library. This is because the new property owner would likely bulldoze the place to make room for the luxury condominiums necessary to maximize his (or her) profits.
By "Minimal Investment" I am going to assume the Library solons actually meant to say "adequate repairs necessary to make the place compliant with safety and ADA requirements." Of course, this is not what they are so energetically trying to sell here, and that they acknowledged the place can be fixed at all must have caused them at least a little pain. Perhaps they need a Howard's aspirin.
So the good news is the "fix the current library" part is fairly transparent. Sell the back lot for $1.45 million and you'd have more than enough to make the place both safe and compliant with the many demands of a few dozen intrusive state and Federal bureaucracies.
I knew you'd be relieved to hear that. Even if it is the result of only one single bid, and with few opportunities for your questions, opinions or input.
Where things get rather non-transparent, and troubling, is with the lack of transparency on how much it is going to cost to turn the YAC into Sierra Madre's new Library by the Pool. And do you know why that is? I had no idea, so I asked the City Manager.
Tattler: Is there a similar "master plan" (or any kind of cost estimate) associated with moving the Library to the YAC and building on that additional space? I believe the reason I get asked this is some people are analytical. I think they're uncomfortable with the survey card which is more intuitive. I can see why the city would want to build a consensus before getting into the actual numbers, but I suspect you will get a number of "no move" results because some feel that without numbers they're being denied important information.
City Manager: The estimate(s) for the move will not be as in-depth as the Library Master Plan, but they do provide a good frame of reference for a range of what actual costs will be. In addition to the space and parking analysis we also know what the square footage cost for construction is and can use that to gauge what an addition/retrofit of the community center would cost. As you stated, we don’t want to put a lot of money into a plan to move if the community desires the library to stay at its current location.
The short answer here apparently is "No." Which unfortunately takes us back to one of our original questions. How can people be expected to share their opinions on that survey postcard if they first don't have all of the numbers upfront? Or at least one bid's worth of them?
You can't. At least not in an analytic and rational way. Of course, you could suspend all of that and go on just belief and emotion. Which is pretty much what you have been asked to do. Use the force, Luke.
But would that be "transparent?" As in "a rational and clear understanding of the situation?" Not all that much.
That is a term used above, and at first I was not quite certain what was meant by it. After some reflection, however, I have come to believe that what the Library Brain Trust is talking about here is space. Or, as they used to say on Star Trek, the final frontier.
Here is how the space controversy is described in a document called "What Are The Problems With The Current Library?" (link).
The current Library building was opened in 1955 and showcased a community room and even a movie projection closet! Just 5 years later the community room was turned into a children’s room to accommodate the burgeoning youth collection and programs. The lack of space has been keenly felt ever since. Attempts to extend the building or rebuild occurred in 1967, 1976, 1989, 1994, 1996, 2003- 2004, all failing from lack of funding. The only additions have been two small rooms at the front of the Library.
As mentioned in the Library Facility Master Plan, “lack of community space is the single largest hindrance to providing quality service. The Library contains no community rooms, no meeting space, no private study space, no open gathering space, and limited study areas. Library programs by default must take over the main reading room of the Library, displacing regular Library users. Even without programs, there is very little room for people. Conditions do not encourage quiet reading, study, or collaboration. Space constraints have put significant obstacles in the Library’s ability to update services.”
Alright. If space is what this is really all about, then maybe the problems are not quite as bad as some have suggested. We all have to deal with small inconveniences from time to time. I mean, if you don't like being at the library when a joyous round of Baby Rhyme Time is rocking the house, can't you just pack up your book and go read it at home? Put your feet up and pour a glass of wine, perhaps?
Is this space issue really worth the mostly unidentified expense and bother of razing the place and moving everything to an as yet largely unplanned and only partially constructed facility across town?
This week you will make your call.