Library's potential closure causes concern

County officials estimate that a redesign project on the main branch of the Schenectady County library in downtown Schenectady could close the library from 12 to 14 months.

At a presentation to the County Legislature on Monday, May 5, Project Manager Tony Ward said that the county's goal of keeping approximately 8,300-square-feet of space open to the public was unfeasible due to major safety concerns.

He also said that keeping the space open would cost the county time and money.

The $7.7 million redesign project will bring the building's electrical, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems up to date and will include asbestos abatement.

Ward said the current systems in the building are at the end of their life.

The final design by Engberg Anderson Design Partnership of Milwaukee also calls for the addition of 9,600-square-feet to the library's current 26,800 feet, and includes plans for children's space, performance space, and a small cafE.

The redesign also calls for the demolition of the McChesney Room, the branch's main public meeting space, where events and seminars are often held.

County Republicans were quick to attack the program for its costs, its undesirable effect on foot-traffic in the downtown area and for its negative effect on the nearly 1,400 people that use the main branch, located on the corner of Clinton and Liberty streets, everyday.

"I think we're looking at the Mercedes Benz plans, when what we can afford is the Ford or Chevy model," said Legislator Joe Suhrada, R-Rotterdam.

Suhrada was also critical of the loss of the library's McChesney Room, which he applauded for its "fine acoustics," built in the style of master-architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

While Minority Leader Robert Farley was less concerned about the project's price tag, he said it was a "disgrace" that the plan could shut down the flagship branch for more than a year.

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