By Mark Squibb | Printed in the February 13 2019 edition of The Shoreline
CBS Mayor Terry French says that the construction of a new library in the town is still a priority.
This is in response to a Letter to The Editor, published in The Shoreline News on Feb. 6, where Cal Taylor, library volunteer, wondered about the status of the long-promised building.
“This has been an ongoing issue since 2014. Actually, for me, it’s been ongoing since about 2004 or 2005, when I started lobbying the provincial government to build a new library,” says French, who prior to being acclaimed mayor in 2017, served as the MHA of Conception Bay South district from 2002 to 2014.
It the coming weeks, he says, the town will issue a request for proposals (RFP) to begin work on the new library.
The 2014/2015 provincial budget approved funding for the library. Some $330,000 was approved for 2015-2016, and $230,00 annually thereafter for the next 24 years. By the fall of 2015, however, a provincial election saw a change in government and the appointment of a new education minister, in this case Liberal Dale Kirby, who set out to renegotiate the deal. Eventually Kirby and then Mayor Steve Tessier agreed to first year provincial funding of $230,000 followed by $195,000 a year for the next 24 years to cover the mortgage costs on a new, less costlier library than the one initially envisaged. The new plan would still see the Town of CBS build and own the library building.
French, says he cannot speak for why the process was so delayed following the original funding announcement, as he was not involved in politics, either municipal or provincial, during that time.
When French and a new council were elected in the fall of 2017, they set about trying to put the details of the deal that Kirby and Tessier announced down on paper.
“The Town hasn’t received one nickel of this (funding),” French notes. “As a matter of fact, the Town is going out on its own dime to do the RFP and so on.”
But French adds the deal with government still stands, and the Town will be able to avail of the funds. He also stressed the importance of constructing the new building.
“The [current] building is ridiculous, it’s outdated, it’s not user friendly,” says the mayor. “There’s nothing nice about the old building that they have now. So, we realize the need and demand for a town this size.”
French says a line in the letter which states that French promised a 10,000 square foot building, is false.
“I never, ever committed to a 10,000 square foot building, and never announced it,” he says.
“In your political life, there’s all kinds of highs and lows. And the day of that announcement (when the provincial government announced the 25-year funding plan for the building) was supposed to be one of my political highs, if you will, for the town, because I had spent so much time and so many hours on it,” he recalls. “At the time, we announced an 8,000 square foot building... Everybody took great delight and everybody was in a happy place. But there was one gentleman, who wrote the letter, and he came up to me, and I said, ‘What’s wrong, you don’t look too pleased? It’s a great day for us,’ and he said, ‘No, it’s too small, I wanted it to be 10,000 square feet.’
“I can remember being so upset and disappointed at the comment that I left the event as quickly as I could... It hurt right to the quick.”
French admits the Letter to the Editor feels personal, while acknowledging that everyone involved in the process is frustrated at the slow progress, adding that no one is more disappointed then himself that patrons in CBS still don’t have a new library.
He adds that in September of 2017, it was announced the new library would be located near the Town Hall. French says that decision still stands.
And though things are moving slowly, they are still moving.
“It’s still very much in process, but believe it or not, it’s still a go,” the mayor adds. “Hopefully the gentleman who wrote the letter can be there for the grand opening.”