By Francis Baker
News Express Staff
The Aboyne library branch will stay open.
Last week, the Wellington County Library Board reversed its earlier decision to close the library in spring 2014 when the new Fergus library branch is completed.
After hearing from a handful of delegations in front of 150 spectators packed into Aboyne Hall on Sept. 12, board members went through the complicated procedure needed to reintroduce the original staff recommendation to close the library.
Then the board voted against that recommendation, effectively keeping the branch open.
But as county Warden Chris White pointed out, the committee’s recommendation has to be ratified by the full Wellington County Council, at its next meeting Sept. 27.
Several of those who spoke last week are planning to restate their cases at the county council meeting to ensure the issue isn’t reversed again.
Delegations at the start of the meeting were led off by Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj, who praised the Fergus library renovation and its part in revitalizing downtown Fergus, but said, “We also have a passion, a real passion, for our library in Aboyne, and … support that facility to the nth degree.”
She asked the library board to reconsider closing Aboyne “as we proceed with the amazing project in the downtown core.”
Fergus businessman Steve Lund raised questions about the size and scope of the Fergus library expansion and suggesting refinishing it as a Carnegie library while renovating the Aboyne branch, as laid out in earlier plans for Wellington Place.
Resident Silvana Sangiuliano presented a petition signed by 1,300 local people objecting to the Aboyne closure. She said she was disappointed the library board and county council had decided to close the branch without a public meeting or without any contact with business owners over the Fergus expansion.
She said the Aboyne branch was the location where future expansion could be best accommodated as Centre Wellington grows.
Others talked about the “tremendous cloud of suspicion over the whole closing,” stressed the wonderful personal service provided by the Aboyne library staff, and noted the lack of parking available around the Fergus branch that will send people with mobility issues to other communities.
Warden Chris White said the library board had heard the community’s message.
“At the end of the day we’re very proud of our library system … It’s a vision not a lot of communities have,” he said.
“It’s very unfortunate the way this developed. Our intent was to manage your tax dollars … and provide you with a level of library service second to none,” he said.
Reconsidering the earlier decision is a “chance to take a break and say, maybe we’re on the wrong path,” White said.
Library board members first had to agree to bring up the issue again, and after that, actually reintroduce the original staff recommendation about Aboyne and vote on it again.
Board member Jennifer Dixon wanted to know how keeping Aboyne open past 2014 would affect the Fergus renovation. “Where do we get the budget to run the bigger (Fergus) library if we still leave Aboyne open?” she asked.
White said there would certainly be a budget impact, but couldn’t give definite figures. He pointed out the difference between the capital budget that would be used for construction in Fergus and needed repairs to Aboyne that have to do ahead whether it’s a library or not, and regular operating costs.
Since all of Aboyne’s staff and programming were to transfer to Fergus when Aboyne closed, there might not be much impact on the operating budgets, the board heard.
At that point, board member Walter Trachsel suggested the whole issue be deferred to the next board meeting. “I don’t see any danger in deferring … This is not going to affect us for the next year and half.”
“My head’s starting to swim,” he said. His motion to defer the matter brought groans and a surge of noise from the spectators.
“Deferral does nothing to satisfy the public,” Erin Mayor Lou Maieron pointed out. “I think the public has spoken and they’d like the (Aboyne) library to remain open.”
Only Trachsel, Dixon, and Sheila Gamble voted to defer the decision, and a few moments later the board unanimously voted down the original recommendation to close the library.