TRURO - Colchester County residents ran with the opportunity to weigh in Monday night on the ongoing debate of where to put a new library.
© Matthew Veno – Truro Daily News
Library debate meeting
More than 250 people crammed into the Truro Fire Hall to listen to proposals for both the Normal College and the former hat factory/bowling alley, then give their opinion and ask questions. Valid points were raised for both locations but perhaps Truro’s Terry LaPointe put it in perspective best.
“All I’m hearing is ‘we have a building, let’s find something to put in it,’” LaPointe said. “I think we need to do what’s best for the library and the people who use it.”
The meeting was held by both Town of Truro and Colchester County officials to give members of the public the chance to see proposals for both sites and gauge public opinion.
A decision, both sides agreed, must be made soon. Especially since a memorandum of understanding between the county and town, which would see the county kick in a $2.2-million contribution should the two sides agree on a site, expires Sept. 30. After that, the town can proceed with it’s own plans without county support if the county doesn’t support the town’s decision.
Both proposed sites are located on Prince Street, would cost about $7 million to renovate and offer two levels.
The Normal College was built in 1874 and sits in the downtown core. Monday’s proposal would see many of the interior walls knocked down to give it an open concept with an addition added to the rear of the building.
The drawings also included green space formed on the current location of the Colchester East Hants Library in much the same way it was when the Normal College was first built.. The development would form a town square with the Normal College, Farmer’s market, the police station and museum all bordering it.
The former hat factory, located on the western end of Prince, was built in the early 1940s. It would also be an open concept design with new windows allowing lots of natural light in.
LaPointe’s wish came true later in the meeting when library director Janet Pelley stepped up to the mic to offer her opinion.
She explained she and her staff preferred the hat factory location for several reasons. It’s open concept design would allow a minimal amount of employees to staff the building at any given time, which Pelley said is important as the library’s funding has not increased in three years and she doesn’t see that trend changing.
She also said staff liked the fact the hat factory site seems functional into the future of the library’s needs, has a significant amount of natural lighting and a geothermal heating system which costs about a quarter of conventional oil furnaces to heat.
But that didn’t sit well with supporters of the Normal College location, especially after Pelley said library staff had consulted with the Snook Group in 2011 about what they’d like to see in a new library. L&R Construction, who worked on the Normal College proposal, did not get the opportunity to consult with library staff prior to Monday’s meeting.
“That’s why we can say without a doubt (the hat factory proposal) will work for us,” Pelley said. “The other site might but we don’t have enough information. It’s not fleshed out.”
John Wheelock, a former member of the town’s planning department, said he felt the Normal College should be the chosen to preserve part of the town’s heritage.
“There are only two buildings like it in Canada, one in Halifax and one in Montreal,” he said. “So it holds a lot of value to Canada, not just to our community.”
Jane Gourley-Davis of the Downtown Truro Partnership said members of the DTP felt the Normal College would be the best site, helping to revitalize the downtown and helping to attract patrons to downtown businesses. About 500 people visit the current library each day.
“We don’t feel the hat factory would serve our members well,” she said. “The Normal College would provide a place of pride and a civic square in the centre of town. Think of how lovely that would be.”
Other residents argued business in the West end of the town has suffered for the past several years, and a library at the hat factory could turn that around.
On Twitter: @tdnmatt