LtE: Library Landscape Committee

The Reading Post accepts Letters to the Editor. All letters must be signed. The Reading Post reserves the right to edit or not publish any letters received. Letters do not represent the views or opinions of the Post.

The following is a copy of an email that I sent to the Board of Library Trustees and our Town Manager. I thought the concerns I raised might be of general interest to the public, so I am sharing it as an LTE to your online news source. 

Dear Board of Library Trustees and Town Manager Maltez:

I am writing with several questions/concerns that I hope one or both of you can address. I am writing in my capacity as a resident and not as a member of the Finance Committee. I am also cc’ing the Select Board, because I am bringing in the town manager (and his responsibilities) into my questions/concerns:

My concerns at a high level are listed in the questions below. For reference, I include the BOLT packet from this past week’s meeting, and I draw your attention to pages 3-10, which include the presentation slides of the Library Landscape Committee (LLC). I would have cc’d LLC on this email, except that the town website does not have any contact information for that ad-hoc committee. However, since at least one BOLT member appears to be a member of the ad-hoc LLC, I hope she will forward my concerns and this email to the LLC.

  1. Is the proposed work of the Library Landscape Committee (as detailed in their presentation at the Board of Library Trustees (BOLT)) meeting of 6/12/2023) something that will soon exceed the charter-defined role of the Board of Library Trustees or may possibly have the potential to go beyond the charter or involve other aspects of our bylaw, because it possibly may involve significant construction and ongoing maintenance? Our charter states, at section 3.6, that the town manager or his designee is responsible for maintenance of library building and grounds, not BOLT. Will the LLC or BOLT be authorized to enter into a contract with a landscape firm to construct this project? Entering into a contract with a landscape construction firm and overseeing execution of said contract and project seems well beyond their charter-defined role.
  2. Who is paying for a full study and survey on this, and who is qualified to evaluate the study? The attached LLC slides state that a next step is to “Allocate funding for a full study, community survey, and engagement.” Where is this funding coming from? Who is evaluating the “full study,” and are they qualified to analyze the study results? Wouldn’t we want to get the DPW and town engineer involved, at a minimum, in any decisions that involve significant installations on town-owned land?
  3. Is the scope of the contemplated project such that it really belongs on the town capital plan and not as a privately funded project that is supposedly going to be constructed and maintained using private money, even though done on public land? How can we have the LLC and/or BOLT having firms just come in and do presentations, selecting one, and then fundraising to pay for this privately, when it is being done on publicly-owned land? Don’t we have to follow municipal construction laws and have the town issue an RFQ and then have the town oversee and pay for this project, not a private foundation? If this were just plantings and flowers, that would be different, but the slides show stages, pergolas, retaining walls, they mention power needs, a stage, etc. What if the costs of the project end up exceeding the donated moneys raised – will the town be on the hook?
  4. Who will be responsible for overseeing the construction of this project? Is the LLC, BOLT, and/or the library director, the appropriate party to oversee a landscape construction project on town-owned library land? Do they have the time or qualifications to do so? What if something goes wrong during construction? What if ongoing maintenance by private parties is inadequate? This is significantly more than the “adopt an island” projects the slides mention. For example, if the project involves excavation and drainage work, it could have significant impact on abutting properties.  
  5. Before the LLC attempts to bring in or solicit outside private architectural firms to design the space, can we use our existing, on-retainer Gienapp firm to provide us some design ideas for landscape architecture? Can Gienapp do landscape design? It would be economical to have them be the first stop in this process, if possible.  

I greatly appreciate the volunteers on the LLC stepping up to consider ways to make the outdoor spaces of the library more usable and welcoming, and this email is not intended to criticize their work in any way. Rather, I am concerned that the types of work that they are contemplating and/or seeking proposals on, need to get other parts of town involved, perhaps sooner vs later. I was not able to attend either the BOLT meeting or the LLC meeting this week to convey my concerns in person.


Marianne Downing
13 Heather Drive

Print Friendly, PDF & Email