To the editor,
We write as citizens and taxpayers who have not followed the new library story in every detail, but who took the time to view both of the proposed facilities (the former hat factory/bowling alley and the Normal College) on Sept. 21 and who attended the public meeting at the fire hall on Sept. 23.
Having recently read a letter to the editor in the Truro Daily News in support of the hat factory/bowling alley site and, some weeks ago, a report indicating the current library director, Janet Pelley, favoured the same site, we tried to set aside our initial bias – favouring the Normal College – and participate in both the facility tours and the public meeting with open minds.
In spite of the fact that the facility tours left both of us wondering why the hat factory/bowling alley site was even in the running for this project, we again attempted to put behind us any preconceived biases when we attended the Sept. 23 meeting.
Our first disappointment with the public meeting was the fact that an unidentified but obviously organized group of Snook Group (hat factory) supporters was enthusiastically attempting to stick labels on everyone who entered the building suggesting the wearer supported the hat factory proposal.
The symbols on the labels were ambiguous (I know of one lady who declared later she was a Normal College supporter but wore the label thinking it simply meant she loved the idea of a new library).
The stickers immediately set up an ‘Us vs. Them’ tone somehow promoting the idea that the hat factory proponents represented the majority view of the citizens in both the town and the county.
Our second disappointment with the meeting was that although Truro Mayor Bill Mills, on behalf of the Town’s representatives on the library committee, did speak in some detail and give a very reasoned explanation as to why the Normal College site is town council’s preference, there was not a peep from the county representatives as to why they preferred the hat factory except for remarks openly made by one county councilor to the effect that if the town were not prepared to support the hat factory site, the county “would consider its options” as regards its 30 per cent funding.
Monday’s meeting demonstrated for us two important aspects of this debate, namely:
1) The Snook Group has been successful in garnering substantial support for the idea of having taxpayers of the region pay to remove an albatross from around its neck.
2) Library director Janet Pelley and some library staff were much too quick in throwing all their support behind the hat factory proposal. As Pelley later admitted at the meeting, “The other site [the Normal College] might be [suitable] but we don’t have enough information. It’s not fleshed out.”
Having toured both facilities and having listened carefully to the submissions, questions and answers at the public meeting and notwithstanding the implicit further delay in resolution of the issue and the threat on the part of the county to withdraw from funding, there is no doubt in our minds that the Normal College proposal should be explored further.
Saving the hat factory at the expense of the Normal College is not an option so far as we are concerned – especially where:
- The town already owns the Normal College property and the library project is likely the only option for its rejuvenation and preservation as one of Truro’s beautiful historic properties
- With input from library staff – not hitherto submitted – the Normal College proposal can likely (in Pelly’s words) be “fleshed out” to make the building very suitable as a library
- As noted in today’s Truro Daily News, while parking is not likely an issue at either site, only the Normal College site can offer contiguous green space in the heart of other municipal improvements such as the Farmer’s Market, Colchester Museum, cenotaph, police station and civic building.
We hope, in short, that the county’s veiled threat to withdraw from funding will be seen for what it is – an empty threat – and that town council will persevere in its efforts to ensure the Normal College site meets all requirements as both a proper functional library and a showcase of our architectural heritage.
Michael and Adele Stokoe