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Public backs modest remodeling for library

Nearly a dozen members of the Friends of the Schenectady Public Library, library trustees and members of the public spoke in front of the Schenectady County Legislature against an extended closure of the main branch of the Schenectady County Library in favor of a 2003 plan that added an addition on the eastern side of the building that preserved the library's lauded architecture and its central programming space, the McChesney Room.

The 2003 plan would construct a $4 million addition between the central branch and the police station on Liberty Street and repair heating and ventilation systems within the building.

Public comments followed the second informational meeting on the remodeling project held this month.

On Tuesday, May 12, county officials discussed their decision earlier in the week to extend the due date for bids to be submitted on the project in an attempt to reduce costs and reduce the amount of time that the main branch would be closed during reconstruction.

Earlier this month, the county was criticized for a proposed $7.7 million project that could close the library for slightly more than a year. The proposed project would create a new entrance to the library on the corner of Clinton and Liberty streets and demolish the McChesney Room.

Several residents also complained in recent weeks that the project's addition of a cafE, performance space and a new entryway was too lavish.

Legislator Joe Suhrada, R-Rotterdam, concurred.

It's like taking down a Norman Rockwell painting and putting up a velvet Elvis, said Suhrada. "The process has got to go back to the stakeholders, and we have to get our big political noses out of it."

John Karl, a library trustee and former president of Friends of the Schenectady Public Library, said he'd support a plan to extend the library to the east, a project that garnered support by the Friends, allowing them to raise nearly $2 million for the project.

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