Carbondale residents turned out last night (Tuesday 5-14-2013) to show their support for competing proposals for the old library building. Three ideas for how to re-purpose the building were presented to the Carbondale Board of Trustees and last night the Trustees took public comments. Aspen Public Radio's Roger Adams filed this report.
Carbondale has a difficult decision to make. The Gordon Cooper building on 4th street will no longer be a library and the Town Council asked for ideas on what to use the building would best serve. Last night supporters of two plans came before the trustees urging them to make the tough call. One idea is for a Family Enrichment Center that would provide care to infants and children. It would offer, the designers say, a unique service that is nearly impossible to find anywhere in Garfield County – a homelike atmosphere for young children.
Montage of public comment in support of the Family Enrichment Center (FEC) proposal:
“We as a community have been touting how we want to improve sustainability and I think that this project really shows that. We’re a community that consists of a growing number of families and we all know that its nearly financially impossible for one parent to stay at home and raise the kids. The need for quality child care for infants to after school care is crucial.”
“It benefits the whole community. If you’re an employer you have employees that are probably parents. You’ve lost time or you probably have known friends that ha to take time off for sick children. And, for those of use who are not lucky enough to have parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles in the community to help out with that; we’re at a severe disadvantage.”
“I’m an older person; I’m 60 years old. I moved here in 2011 and one of the things I love about this community is how many young people we have here. And, I just don’t see how we’re going to maintain that mix of demographic if we don’t start listening to what young families need here. And, we’re hearing a clear message from our young families that this is a vital need.”
“Its not just a day care, it’s a homelike setting that they’re trying to create. I have an eleven month old and an eight year old and I think about the center and I think I would actually bring my baby here; that feels safe and womb-like. So I can consider that, yeah, I would bring my baby to the center so I could work a little more.”
The passion for art was what others came to support last night before the Carbondale Trustees. A second proposal for the old library building is a museum for the work of Carbondale resident and world renown sculptor James Surls. Backed by philanthropist Jim Calloway, the Surls museum would house his works and act as a gallery for other artists whose work Surls himself would curate. Supporters believe the museum would draw art tourists to Carbondale from around the world. Many speakers spoke to the hard choice the trustees must make
Montage of public comment in support of the James Surls Museum proposal:
“Thanks you guys, I think this is kind of a hard thing for the whole community because, if there’s one thing, we all love this community and we all believe in it and we want the right things. So while I believe that we do need a family enrichment center, that would be awesome to have, I do believe that the Surls museum is the right use for the library.”
“We’re talking about an anchor arts facility. A James Surls museum would draw people form all over the country; museum tour groups, individual art tourists. They would spend money in our restaurants and stay in our lodging. We have an opportunity here that is just amazing.”
“The location of that museum would place it in the heart of our town where it deserves to be. The Surls museum would be another gem in Carbondale’s crown.”
“The museum proposal fits with our town’s vision for itself. An art museum is not just about collecting things and storing things. Its mission is to communicate the meaning of that collection. And, I believe that this particular art; sculpture forged and carved and whittled in Missouri Heights is well suited for Carbondale.”
28 people had comments for the board and they were split almost evenly on the two proposals. A third idea is to turn the library into an academy for the performing arts but no one appeared in support of the idea. In the end the Board of Trustees put off a decision. They closed the public comment period and set a discussion and possible vote for May 28.