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Letter: Didsbury council surprised by library allegations

New, scaled-back design options under consideration

Re: Letter to the editor  re: Letter: Didsbury library plans questioned.

Town of Didsbury council has the following response to the letter to the editor submitted by the Friends of the Library Society.

Council appreciates and applauds all of our volunteer groups for all they do for our community. We believe this is supported and apparent through the involvement with and support from our council with local volunteer groups.

The Friends of the Library Society is one of many dedicated groups of hard-working and committed volunteer groups in Didsbury who volunteer for hundreds of hours per year for the groups they represent.

Council was surprised by the content and allegations contained in the letter to the editor that includes incorrect information, and is thus responding to set the record straight for our citizens.

The Friends of the Library Society have not been asked to leave and find new accommodations. As the town is in the very preliminary stages of design and planning for the library expansion, there has been no reason for the town to discuss with the Friends of the Library about the requirement to vacate the premises.

Should the Friends of the Library need to vacate the old town office space to make way for construction and expansion of the existing Didsbury Municipal Library into the old town office, or for any other reason, the Friends of the Library will, of course, be given appropriate notice as any tenant would be due.

The Friends of the Library Society have not contacted council or administration with any concerns or questions they would like clarified.

The Friends of the Library Society have never been charged any rent or utilities for the use of the town facilities in the many years they have occupied them, including the lawn bowling facility, the old fire hall, and currently the old town office.

The utilities and administrative costs of the fire hall and the town office total approximately $5,000 per year. The town has not provided any such courtesy or such long-term free use of a town-owned facility to any other volunteer group over these years.

Information from 2011 is out of date (three councils ago). This council was elected in 2017 and direction has changed for the library expansion as was noted in our press release of June 19.

We are very optimistic about this library expansion and the favourable opportunity to continue to provide a quality library while keeping check on a manageable cost for the town’s budget.

The allegation of having one person from each group make decisions for council and the library board, stating we are moving forward with the library project without any motion that speaks to this, is incorrect.

At the May 12, 2020, meeting, council passed motion #167-20: “To direct administration to move forward with the development of a plan for the library renovation and expansion.”

At the June 9, 2020, council meeting, council passed motion #228-20: “To release a joint statement for the new library project upon approval of the mayor and board chair.”

The joint press release announcing the plans for future expansion of the library facility in our community went out on June 19.

Contrary to the claim that the town wasted the previous study, completed prior to the 2017 election, the town is currently working with the same design firm -- Avid Architecture -- and utilizing the study to prepare new, scaled-back design options for this project, options that are financially viable for the town’s budget yet will accommodate the need for increased space – doubling the current space – for our library and all the programs they run, space and equipment they provide to users, and books they house.

Council does look forward to future dialog with the Friends of the Library and keeping an open line of communication and access as council does with all volunteer groups in Didsbury.

Town of Didsbury Mayor Rhonda Hunter,

on behalf of town council.