Photo: Lawn or ditch; the Library Building Committee wants to use the site as a staging area for the construction of the new library
The patch of sunken land adjacent to the Underwood Pool and Concord Avenue doesn’t have an official name attached to it. Some call it the Underwood Lawn, but it’s sort of an extended ditch.
In winter, the town fills the basin with water, and it’s used for outdoor skating like the ponds the old timers talk about. It gets pretty swampy in spring and summer after a couple of days of rain draining into the space. It’s principally where youngsters eat ice cream while taking a break from frolicking in the pool.
But to the building committee overseeing the construction of the $39.5 million, 42,000 sq.ft. new town library, that “ditch” is the perfect location to become the main staging area for the project, where tons of steel, building materials, and parking for the construction team.
During a project update before the Select Board, Clair Colburn, chair of the building committee, presented a first draft plan in which the land would be fenced off and prepared for construction and parking use – mostly layering the site with stones and gravel – then returning the land to its present state. In addition, the committee will make pains to protect the existing culvert that takes Wellington Brook from the library property, under the ditch and Concord Avenue, to Clay Pit Pond.
The committee is eyeing the site for staging and parking to keep down expenses. Colburn said if they can not use this location, the committee will be required to rent a warehouse to store the material and truck it in and out on an already congested Concord Avenue. Also, without dedicated parking, construction workers will take up scarce spaces on Concord and residential side streets.
“The best option is to keep it there,” said Colburn.
Just how receptive town officials, residents, and especially the adjacent neighbors will be to a supply location and five-days-a-week parking for one “pool season” – spring through fall of 2024 – is a request the committee knows will come with its own issues.
“We know this will be a hot-button issue for some people,” said Colburn.
And the Select Board is already asking if transforming the drainage ditch with a culvert is possible.
“Can you park cars there? Can you do that?” queried Select Board Chair Mark Paolillo, who will either deny or approve the ask with his two fellow members. Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said several town offices are “running all that down” to determine if it can be done safely.
An official request will come for town consideration as demolition of the current library and the construction of the new facility are scheduled to begin around the New Year, according to Building Committee Member Kathy Keohane, who joined Colburn before the committee. However, before that occurs, the committee will hold at least two public forums to discuss the project.
In other news of the new library, one of the significant architectural features that library proponents pointed to for the past three years is receiving a haircut. The impressive main stairs that would allow patrons to work, seat and ponder life’s questions as patrons moved between floors is no more. Not that it’s gone; it’s just been squeezed a bit with only three levels of seating and a more typical turn (to the right) to reach the second floor.