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Sunday, June 16 News

Library gets cash back for annex

WESTPORT — The Board of Finance unanimously approved returning $141,000 back to the Westport Library in order to help fund an annex dedicated to used book sales.

“It’s a more efficient and better-use space for our needs,” Iain Bruce, president of the library board, said during Wednesday’s meeting, explaining the library nets about $100,000 each year through sales of donated books, including its large summer sale.

The money itself was from among some $600,000 originally given to the town over the years to save for future needs.

The 640-square-foot annex will be constructed on the southeast corner of the building, where there are currently some parking spaces, which will be relocated along the eastern side of the lot.

Since construction on the library began, volunteers have operated the book collection process out of a trailer on the corner of Jesup Green. This procedure, in turn, gave them the idea for a separate dedicated space to handle the book sales all year, which they also hope to expand to online selling as well.

The entire cost will be around $250,000, but Bruce said they believe they’ll be able to raise the difference through donor contributions.

One resident, former Representative Town Meeting member John Suggs, expressed several concerns about the decision, including its timing.

“This feels like it came on so suddenly,” he said, comparing the request to the infamous “River of Names” project, which drew some ire from residents recently when it was announced that the wall of tile names was not going to completely replaced.

Suggs also said he wasn’t sure it was a good use of the money, and suggested the library requisition the town-owned Adams Schoolhouse property for its purpose.

Bruce, who said it had been in discussion for over a year, noted other sites were looked at, but that volunteers want to be close to the library while they’re involved in the work.

“The book sale is a volunteer-run operation,” he said.

While he spoke positively about the book sale itself, BOF member Michael Rea criticized the look of the new annex.

“I think it’s just an ugly-looking structure,” he said, comparing it to a bunker or a shed, looking like it had been put on the property as an after-thought following the extensive renovation project.

Chairman Brian Stern praised the annual sale.

“The book fair for me is another example of our brand,” he said. “Everyone gets involved. ... I’ll do anything I can to encourage events like this.”

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