November 24, 2009 |

Mount wants to be involved in decision about what happens to library branch

Mount Washington residents want to be involved in the decision regarding whether to move the Carnegie Library from its current Grandview Avenue location to another site in the neighborhood.

They told guest speakers from the library that at a Nov. 19 membership meeting of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation.

Alan Komm said he was "flabbergasted" upon hearing an October announcement that the library's board approved a plan to close four branches and move the Mount Washington library to somewhere else in the community.

The guest speakers – Mary Frances Cooper, library deputy director, and Mary Monaghan, assistant director of neighborhood libraries – said library officials have not yet sought another location, negotiated for one or commissioned a study on the matter.

"The (library) board learned something. They made a huge leap (when they announced their decision about closing libraries and moving within Mount Washington). The rest of the people didn't come with them," Ms. Cooper said.

"We are truly concerned. We want input," Georgia Blotzer told the two women.

"I'll explain the library board's thinking on Mount Washington. You may choose to agree or disagree. There were three areas that they looked at," Ms. Cooper said.

She said studies have shown that libraries get their maximum use when located near retail, a bank, post office and/or grocery store. Also, libraries get most of their usage from people who live within a mile radius of the library. Thirdly, moving the Mount Washington branch may attract users from Knoxville; there are also plans to close the Carrick and Knoxville branches and combine them at a new location.

The Grandview Avenue location "has a world class view," Armand J. Panson said. "It is where it has stood for over 100 years and it is

where it should stand for another 100."

"It doesn't have to be within a business district with five bars," another resident said.

Ms. Blotzer recommended that a study be done on how much it would cost to renovate the Grandview Avenue location "and add on to the back of this wonderful property."

Ms. Monaghan said a study was done in 2000 about making improvements to all the branches. She said she would try to locate the study.

Ms. Blotzer also asked why the Sunshine Act permitted the library board to hold meetings that were closed to the public.

"The library is a public trust. It is subject to different laws," Ms. Cooper responded. She mentioned that a dozen of the members came from City Council, County Council and the School Board or represented the county executive, mayor and state representatives.

Katherine Molnar, of the City Planning Department, reminded the audience that permits would have to be obtained before there could be new construction.

City Council member Theresa Kail-Smith and Heidi Tappe, chief of staff for State Rep. Chelsea Wagner, attended the meeting; Ms. Wagner, a critic of the library's plan, could not attend due to a commitment out of town.

"We're adamant on keeping all libraries open where our constituents want them," Ms. Tappe told the audience.

Other guest speakers on another issue were two landscape architects from Environmental Planning and Design – A.J. Schwartz and Jon Stilan. They revealed their trail plan for Grandview Scenic Byway Park.

Their plan, requested by the MWCDC, follows a study on trails' impact by Duquesne University students and focus group discussions that the CDC had with residents.

Mr. Schwartz said he and his colleague had identified 10 miles of trails or possible trails within the neighborhood. They vary in terrain and width. Some include dirt paths and city sidewalks.

"We are working on determining the costs now. The time-line depends on volunteers and funding," he said.

"There are issues. Some are remote and are difficult to maintain. Some have safety issues. Of the existing ten miles, 80 per cent are accessible and navigable."

Audience members inspected maps of the trails after the meeting. Mr. Schwartz said he plans to distribute copies of the maps at a later time.

In other business, meeting agendas distributed by the MWCDC included applications to serve on a newly created Youth Programming Board for the Ream Center. The deadline to apply is Dec. 7. The number of members is limited between five and seven.

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