Editor: On March 19, a Library and Recreation Task Force composed of seven residents was formed by Resolution 93-08 to "conduct research and submit recommendations in a report to the mayor and Board of Commissioners as to the suitability of various land sites for the location of recreation and library facilities" in Tarpon Springs.
The task force was to meet for a "term of 60 days or until such time as the written report was submitted."
On June 8 at the Board of Commissioners workshop, the task force members made a verbal presentation regarding their process of selection for the four final site recommendations for the library expansion. The sites were:
1) True Value Hardware Store on Tarpon Avenue.
2) Vacant parcel on Alt. U.S. 19 just south of Percy's Auto.
3) Tarpon Arcade Hotel on Pinellas Avenue.
4) The Kidney Dialysis Center and adjacent property on Huey and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
I respect and appreciate the dedication and hours of research given by the task force members. They are all to be commended for their hard work. They set aside their personal opinions in favor of objective analysis.
However, the resolution stated that a "written report" was to be submitted to the Board of Commissioners. Yet, to date, I have not received such a report with their findings.
A library is the focal point and basis of any community. Serious thought and consideration must go into its planning and continuation if it and the community are to survive and prosper. To do anything less is irresponsible and unthinkable.
There is a serious omission on the list of recommended sites, and that omission is the present library site at Craig Park. In my opinion, not only as an elected official for Tarpon Springs but also as a resident and taxpayer, Craig Park needs to be added to the list of possible sites for library expansion.
It needs to be included so city staff can research the pros and cons and provide me with the information I need on all five sites so that I can make an informed and rational decision.
Show me in black and white that the library should or should not be expanded at its present location.
The information that I feel needs to be supplied to me on the sites for consideration, including Craig Park, is as follows:
1) Is the owner of the property willing to sell?
2) If so, for how much?
3) If it is an existing building, what will it cost to renovate it and will it be suitable for a library?
4) What is the cost of a new building?
5) Are there any problems with the property?
6) What effect will the new location have on the residents and users?
7) What will be the final cost for each site?
8) What will we do with the present library building?
While cost was not a deciding factor in the task force selection process, I feel it is of primary concern for my decision. None of the sites recommended, and not even Craig Park, are ideal locations for a library; yet the concerns regarding expansion at Craig Park can be addressed and solved.
Walk the park. Try to visualize an expanded library to the west near the shuffleboard courts. I have. I visualize not only an improved library but a more beautiful park.
Remove the circular drive and grass in it. Plant more trees. Open up the waterfront to park users, not cars, as the situation exists now.
Relocate the shuffleboard courts to the community center on Walton Avenue. Relocate the tennis practice wall to another park, perhaps the acreage on Keystone Road if we are successful in its acquisition.
Improve the parking area to allow for better ingress and egress on Spring Boulevard. Consider tearing down the Recreation Center (Tourist Club), opening additional waterfront and further enhancing the beauty of the park by planting even more trees. Relocate the activities from that center to an expanded Community Center or elsewhere.
Pipe dreams? No, just viable options and solutions to concerns raised by some.
The Library Board of Trustees and the Friends of the Library favor the consideration, if not the expansion, of the present facility at Craig Park. Yet, their opinions were not taken into consideration by three members of the Board of Commissioners. Why the resistance to expansion at Craig Park? Am I missing something? Are plans already laid out that I am unaware of?
The Board of Commissioners is now to reduce the list of four recommended sites to two, without answers to any of the aforementioned questions regarding cost, availability, etc. How can this be done logically? It is unthinkable to me to have to decide such an important issue without the facts.
Based on public support recommending consideration of expansion at Craig Park, I feel that this decision should be made by the taxpayers in the form of a referendum _ do you want the library to expand at Craig Park or another site?
When I am presented with the facts on all sites, regardless of my personal opinion, I will make a decision that will be in the best interest of our community.
Therefore, I strongly protest any further discussion and decisions concerning the future of the Tarpon Springs Library until all of the facts are provided to me on not only the four recommended sites but also the present site at Craig Park as well.
I will not and cannot make a well-informed decision without answers to all of my questions. To do so, in my opinion, is a disservice to the taxpayers of this community.
Tarpon Springs city commissioner