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Library suggestions include "don't do it'

More than 50 residents who attended a meeting on the city's plans for the 80,000-square-foot library Wednesday expressed lots of ideas.

Some wanted an environmentally sound and energy efficient library. Others asked for separate library spaces for children and teens to use. And some said they wanted the new library to be bigger and better.

But many residents questioned whether spending so much for a library was the right thing to do. And their concerns apparently are shared by many of their neighbors.

Two residents have collected more than 200 signatures this week from their Largo neighbors who want to put the brakes on the issue.

Their plan includes getting as many signatures as they can from residents who want to stop the new library before the city commission's April 2 meeting. They hope to persuade 25 to 50 of those petitioners to attend that meeting and voice their opinions on the matter. And finally, the proponents of the petition plan to give every name, address and telephone number to city commissioners.

"When we say stop, we mean stop and reassess," said Terry Cypher, one of the organizers of the petition. "We're just afraid of spending money with no end in sight."

Residents are afraid that $19-million price tag may inflate by several million dollars by the time the library's doors open in 2004.

"In one word, I feel it's a waste," said Suzanne Smith, a bookkeeper who has lived in the city since 1955. "I'm all in favor of updating or bringing it up to a better quality building, but not to that expense."

And some Largo residents are concerned about whether they will have to bear the burden of the library.

"You got to think about the taxes if it gets too big," said Dorothy Cartmell, 84.

Based on current projections of revenues and expenditures, Largo residents could face tax increase as early as 2005.

But the concerns don't end there.

Other concerns include the location of the library, how pedestrians will safely walk from the park to the library and whether a traffic light or road changes are needed.

There are opposing views on almost every subject. Some want a cozy, comfortable library, while others want to think big. A handful favor putting the genealogy department in its own building; others want it kept in the library. Even a coffee shop received equal amounts of approval and disapproval.

"It's important to remember these are input meetings where suggestions are solicited," said Steve Ross, assistant to the city manager. "The architects and city administration and ultimately the City Commission will evaluate those suggestions and use the ones they think will work best with the library and fall within the budget."

Regardless of the specific opinions, he said, more feedback is better.

"This is the community's library and we want to hear what they are looking for in a library, what they would like to see, what their expectations are," he said.

There were some who simply liked what they saw.

"I particularly like the park setting. Some of their preliminary site plans are very interesting," said Ruth Ann Zandanel, who restores old photographs. "I think the coffee shop idea is a very appealing idea, and I like the idea of the outdoor patio areas."