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Makeover May Be in the Future for Fairfield Woods Library

The public library Board of Trustees briefed the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday on the building's problems and potential solutions.

could get a complete makeover in the coming years, but the process has only just begun.

Members of the briefed the Board of Selectmen Wednesday on the building’s issues and potential solutions.

“This is Step One of the library updating us on their concerns,” First Selectmen Michael Tetreau said.

The Fairfield Woods Branch Library -- the busiest branch library in Connecticut -- has its fair share of ailments. The leaky roof is overdue for replacement; the mezzanine is virtually inaccessible to handicapped patrons; the only elevator is outdated and does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) codes; and the ground floor, which houses the town’s emergency backup servers, is susceptible to water breaches during heavy rainstorms.

The building was constructed in 1969 and expanded in 1991, the last major project the library underwent. Trustee board members said the 1991 expansion comprised of mainly exterior improvements; the interior mechanics of the building are more than 40 years old.

The roof was slated to be replaced in 2008 but the project was postponed by former First Selectman Kenneth Flatto for further assessment, according to the presentation given by the trustee board.

Selectman James Walsh said he would “go on record” to say that Flatto was not correct to remove the roof project. “It’s a disgrace that the roof wasn’t done when it was first needed,” he said.  

The growth of patrons, programs, and services offered by the library also appear to be outgrowing the 18,600 square foot space. The Fairfield Woods Branch Library has one small meeting room and -- according to the Board of Trustee members -- that’s not enough for a 21st century library. The 21st century library should not only house books but function as a “community living room” for recreational and cultural programs, trustee board member Dr. Manyul Im said.  

The Board of Trustees began to look into solutions to the building’s issues when they funded and conducted a feasibility study with an architect several months ago. Four options arose, ranging from building an addition, to renovating the existing building, to completely demolishing the existing building and constructing a larger, ADA-compliant one on the same property.

The Board of Trustees recommends the latter option, which would result in a 24,100 square foot building and could cost approximately $13 million. Board Chair Robert Frigo explained these were “very rough estimates.”

If approved by the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, and Representative Town Meeting, tearing down and rebuilding the library is projected to take just shy of three years, according to the trustees’ presentation.

There was some discussion of additional options, such as the library finding a bigger space in town to move into permanently. Town Librarian Karen Ronald pointed out that the site is “working” because of the location and “walkability” for all different patrons, ranging from young students to seniors.

“If we found a bigger site elsewhere it might not work as well, “she said.

Walsh warned that complete reconstruction would be “a hard sell to the public” in current economic times,  “especially when they see the tax impact that’s about to hit.”

Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey agreed. “We’re going to have some tough conversations.” But she added the library is “a vital community resource.”

Should the Fairfield Woods Branch Library be demolished, and a larger facility take its place? Tell us what you think in the comments.

overtaxed April 05, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Another 13 Million of tax payers money down the drain. Do not worry the tax payer of Fairfield will pick up the tab. When is some official going to stand up and say enough is enough and have the town balance the budget. Fairfield residents in these economic time have to tighten there belts why not the town. Very sad !!!!
John Jameson April 05, 2012 at 01:11 PM
No money down the drain yet. It hasn't even been approved. And I'm not arguing the merits of this particular project, but people do realize that money does need to be spent by the town in order to provide everyone with what they feel, rightly so, that the town should provide. No one likes paying higher taxes, but take a step back--say the town stopped putting any more money into the schools, libraries, parks, roads...you'd have lower tax bills for a few years, but not necessarily a town in which anyone wants to live. People start leaving, businesses start leaving. And guess what happens then? Your tax bill goes up and up and up and you're complaining that you get nothing for that money. It's a delicate balancing act.
Broke April 05, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Spending money for a new branch library? Seriously in this economy. I would vote to shut the place down and sell the property to get it on the tax roles. We have a beautiful library downtown, and we can barely afford that one....their budget request was recently cut. Get real people.
Swanky April 05, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Let me guess this is McCarthy-vahey's little pet project. Miss Happy Go Lucky wants a state of the art library in her little Stratfield Village. Get with the program. This proposal is insane. Ken was wrong not to fix the roof, but he would have had the political smarts not to put a project of this scale on the Selectman agenda.
Peggy Young April 05, 2012 at 01:26 PM
How about a book mobile instead? Even with gas at $5/gallon it has to be cheaper than building a new branch. You are driving people out of this town with all these projects, please stop.
Concerned Fairfielder April 05, 2012 at 01:31 PM
If you could all see just how busy the branch is, the sevices that are provided from mothers of infants to senior citizens, you may value the branch more. Ask for the usage statistics before you start suggesting it should be closed.
Lloyd Costiner April 05, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Tetreau/Vahey, tax and spend liberals. Never met an increase they didn't like. You get what you vote for taxpayers! I for one did not sign on for a brand new BRANCH library. Close it and save some money. Use the other libraries in town. We have 21 of them!
Michele Modugno April 05, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Listen everyone...this should have been done years ago...this building was in dire need of repairs, etc. long ago. This is what happens when you wait too long to fix something, because you don't want to upset taxpayers. If we want a town that attracts businesses, large and small, and attracts people to move to Fairfield because we have great schools, places to shop, museums, libraries, universities, restaurants, etc., etc....we need to have good roads, buildings that function properly and meet codes, etc., etc. Unfortunately, the time has come to pay the piper and you just cannot keep delaying things as the price will just go up and up. Forget the branch library and move everything to the Main Library downtown...and where are we all going to park then? Move everything downtown and everyone with it...I mean patrons...where in the world do you plan to put all the cars? Something has to be done...but procedures must be followed, i.e. put a building committee in place and start doing research and investigating. We cannot wear blinders and say...we don't need it, send people downtown, etc. Whether we like it or not, our town has grown and we need to start thinking about how that is impacting Fairfield.
Amy V April 05, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I think the total renovation sounds wonderful!! I pray and hope my tax money goes towards this project! As it stands the Fairfield Woods Library has an extremely unsightly exterior and depressing interior space.Given it's current state I avoid it like plague. I would LOVE a brand new facility. . one that I would actualy use. You need to spend money to support a community -- i.e. its infracture, its facilities, etc. It's just the way it is. If you don't like these types of changes to improve the town, move to a place with lower taxes and, as you'll discover, far fewer and inferior amenities.
R. Ludlowe April 05, 2012 at 03:03 PM
This is what happens when you let someone like Flatto cut all of the maintenance for years. Get used to it... Our pretty little infrastructure is crumbling due to a complete lack of attention during the Dark Years. It seems to me that the most obvious decision here is to let Walgreens come in and build a combo market/library. Two birds, one stone.
Concerned Fairfielder April 05, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Where are there 21 libraries in this town?
FFLDRESIDENT April 05, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Guess they are counting the school libraries (11 elementary, 3 middle schools, 2 high schools, 2 universities), plus Pequot, Main, Fairfield Woods. But the public schools aren't open nights/weekends/summers.
overtaxed April 05, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Two people want to spend the tax payers money verus 9 against. If the two people want this then have your taxes raised and leave the rest out of us out. We have to get a control on spending in this town. It is out of control with schools as 75% of the budget. How does Westport and other towns keep there taxes down. Tax and spend does not work.
Fairfield Resident April 05, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Park at the Post Office in the large lot behind the building. Plenty of space there. PROBLEM SOLVED It's time to close the Fairfield Woods branch library!
Amy Ulness April 05, 2012 at 07:00 PM
The main library is large and modernized and beautiful and very empty, even in the evenings. They can't afford to spend that kind of money on the branch library, they should consider closing it. Taxes in Fairfield are rising at a staggering rate and we have not only other projects that take precedence but we have to spend millions cleaning up the incompetence of the Madoff and Metro Center messes. Maybe patch it up for now but talk of a major renovation, and $13 million equals at least double that in Fairfield "cost estimates" talk. Let's catch our collective breaths after the many financial hits we've taken before taking on another major project like this.
Peggy April 05, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Thank you Amy Ulness! A voice of reason!!! Please close the branch library. We need a way to save money in this town. We will save on staff, salaries, pensions, materials, electricity, maintenance etc. finally some real thinking and logic on this site. I only hope elected officials are paying attention. I like the idea of parking at the post office too, there is plenty of parking around downtown, you just may have to walk a bit, not an unreasonable request in these days when people really need more excercise. Sell the site! Get it on the tax rolls!!!! Cut our pension liability don't add to it with more staff!!!!
Stacey April 05, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Yes, we don't have a CVS yet on Fairfield Woods Rd.
K.C. Davis April 05, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Hell, why don't we just put in another bank! Everyone seems to forget that the Fairfield Woods Library is THE busiest branch in all of CT. Where did people go when the hurricane came through late last year and people lost electricity for weeks? The library. When we had excessive heat during last summer, where did people (many of which were senior citizens) go to cool down? The library. Where do the kids go to get their books for their required summer reading? The library. The branch does not only service Fairfield, but also Easton, Bridgeport, Stratford, Trumbull, and Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University students. The public cannot use the school libraries and the two colleges have a limited collection, so let's be realistic. Libraries are open to everyone. There is no discrimination against race, gender, or class. We service the public for free. You can take a class on tax reform, extreme couponing, and even SAT preparation. The library data base offers tutoring for all age students, foreign languages, access to E-books, and access to Consumer Report magazine for FREE. We need both libraries. ENOUGH SAID.
Amy Ulness April 05, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Libraries aren't providing services for free, taxpayers pay a lot for them and would be forced to pay a lot more if this huge renovation goes through at 13 million (and again, we both know from being on boards and such that costs usually come in about double the initial estimate). All of those services you discuss can be provided at the main branch of the library. Why are we servicing people from other to towns? Do those towns pay toward the running of this branch of the library.
Brian April 06, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Hey Amy, why not head to the branch library and research that!Or was it not a question? Busiest branch library in the state. Look it up.
Amy Ulness April 06, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Hey Brian, that was obviously a rhetorical question. I actually will make an effort to get the answer to that though. Why don't you look up why we spent so much on the renovation of the main branch of the library if the Fairfield Woods branch is the busiest one in CT.
K.C. Davis April 06, 2012 at 04:06 PM
True. Our taxes do cover for these services. But still, when someone is out of work, on a fixed income, or newly divorced with 4 children, a library can offer assistance for those in need. The Woods Library is a vital part of this community, like all libraries. The building is need of repair. One way or another , we need to address that. We service other towns just as other towns service the people of Fairfield. That is what is great about this country. We have inter-library loans when we can not provide a certain material to a patron. My sister once received a book from the Library of Congress. The libraries join communities together. The fines that the library receives from all its patron benefits the town. I agree we need to discuss this matter thoroughly, but I won't agree to discuss closing or demolishing. Not an option.
Clyde Newman April 06, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Just an FYI, From the Fairfield Citizen: "Walsh was concerned about the cost of a new library, especially since there is still about $9 million in bonded debt to be paid for a recent expansion of the main library on the Old Post Road." The cost of renovations for Woods is $8.7 million http://www.fairfieldcitizenonline.com/news/article/Library-officials-propose-new-Fairfield-Woods-3461033.php
William Sullivanford April 06, 2012 at 07:40 PM
The branch library sits next to the largest copper coated school in Connecticut, keep on spending our tax dollars.
EMTD April 07, 2012 at 03:27 AM
This is just another example of the "penny wise, pound foolishness" of our town's leaders. These issues should have been addressed years ago and not put "on the back burner" year after year. The town, especially the Stratfield side, is growing and so is the need for quality services including an adequate library that is accessible to all people. Let's research all of the options before making any rash decisions.
Villager April 07, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I am so tired of listening to people from "Stratfield" whine. We don't have this in Stratfield and we don't have that in Stratfield. Stratfield Stratfield Stratfield just break off from Fairfield and create your own sovereign land. Good riddance to you Go enjoy "your" blight ridden village, your granite curbs, your library, etc. and take the copper clad middle school with you as a parting gift.
Joeseph Biff January 09, 2013 at 01:41 PM
Amy V, So you get " depressed" when you see the interior of the branch library and you don't care for the "extremely unsightly exterior"? Well then I have a suggestion for you.If something like the interior"space" of a library makes you sad and depressed,you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.Perhaps he will put you on Prozac or some other from of anti-depressant.You are obviously living in an alternate universe,unaware of the reality of the real world.Many town residents are struggling to get by.We have major school renovations in the works,a new pavilion,outrageous pensions to be met,etc,etc and you're worrying about the looks of the library? I think it's a wonderful facility.If it needs repairs,then so be it,but to knock it down and build a new one is simply another unnecessary,huge expense we can do without.Don't you get that? You want a brand new,beautiful,shiny,cheerful library? Well tsk,tsk,tsk .Amy,I promise you I will make my voice heard loud and clear at any town meeting involving the branch library.

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