Yogi Berra and the Library Board

Byy On

Marilyn Olsen has contributed this article. She was president of the Friends of the Fairhaven Library for 2007 and 2008.

When Yogi Berra observed, “It’s like déjà vu all over again,” he was talking about Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, but he just as easily could have been talking about the Bellingham Library Board.

After years of indecision about where to locate a new central library, in 2008 the Board presented a proposal to the City Council to have the taxpayers support a $56 million bond to build a fancy new library. Never was there ever any real plan for what the $56 million would pay for mind you, just a proposal that the citizens give the board the $56 million.

Several of the long-time Friends of the Fairhaven Library had for years been lobbying the Library Board to please just do some simple repairs to the Fairhaven Library.

The board responded by suggesting the request for repairs be incorporated in the bond issue.

These same several Friends, sensing the potential folly of this idea, responded by asking the City Council and the Mayor to please exclude the cost of the repairs to the Fairhaven Library from the bond issue. All we want is all we’ve ever wanted, these Friends said, please just make the simple repairs necessary to preserve our 104-year-old library for future generations.

Good thing, too.

Shortly thereafter, the Mayor tabled the board’s request for the bond issue and the Council budgeted $2.3 million to do, at last, what these Friends had asked for all along. Make the simple and necessary repairs to the Fairhaven Library.

The bidding process could have begun and the repairs the Friends had asked for all along could have actually been accomplished in a prudent and timely manner.

The Board, however, decided instead to hire architects, and spend several months not helping move along a plan for the simple and necessary repairs to the Fairhaven Library, but to come up with a grand new proposal for the Fairhaven Library that would add an additional $1 million to the project. While their current $3.3 million proposal is, happily, $52.7 million less than their last idea, since the additional non-budgeted $1 million doesn’t exist and the economy is in recession, the $3.3 million is another plan the board is proposing that the city and the taxpayers can’t afford.

At the Board’s public meeting to unveil this $3.3 million plan Thursday night, the same small, hopeful group of Friends appeared again. This time with a proposal to the Mayor and the City Council to just do what the group had asked for all along, make the simple and necessary repairs to the Fairhaven Library in a fiscally responsible, prudent and timely fashion.

Now, the Mayor and the Council have another decision to make. It’s déjà vu all over again.

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Comments by Readers

Larry Horowitz

Feb 08, 2009

I wholeheartedly support preserving the 104-year old Fairhaven library building and completing the necessary ?simple repairs.?  Unfortunately, the term ?simple repairs? and the cost of $2.3 million do not seem to coincide. 

Marilyn, do you know how large the building is?  Is it larger than 6,000 square feet?  I ask because the cost of replacing a 6,000 for $2.3 mil is almost $400 per square foot.  I?d rather preserve an historical building, but at the cost of these simple repairs, would it be possible to build a new one for less, especially in light of today?s Herald article ?Whatcom County construction companies adjust to difficult building climate.? 

(Sorry Tip, I forgot how to include this URL as a link.)

The article discusses how the bids for many construction projects are falling because there are more contractors than jobs to go around.  Seems that, at a minimum, the whole repair contract should be rebid.  (I seem to recall a story that it might have been rebid recently and the price increased.  Not sure that makes sense.)

What am I missing here?


John Servais

Feb 09, 2009

Actually, the needed repairs can be done for the 2008 budgeted $1.3 million.  And that could have been done for less than a million if the Library Board had only acted several years ago when urged by the Friends of the Fairhaven Library.  To delay further is to risk serious damage to the building walls. 

At the afternoon committee meeting of the city council on Jan 26, Public Works Facilities Manager, Myron Carlson, told the council that the needed repairs could be done for the $1.3 million.  He also said the seismic work was not necessary at this time.

Listen for yourself to this 4 minute mpg recording.  The $1.3 is about the 2 minute mark and the seismic not needed is near the end. 

Click here to listen to Myron Carlson at the Jan 26 meeting.

You can also visit the city website at cob.org and watch the full committee meeting.


Tip Johnson

Feb 10, 2009

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Without the line breaks.

Historic preservation costs more than new construction. Just gotta get over that.  You get more, in the long run.

Branches make sense, just like smaller schools. However, neither jibes with the factory efficiency mentality.  Looks like we may be done with that one for a while, anyway.

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