Update: Where We Are in 2012
In 2009, with the help of the Wheaton/Kemp Mill community, Ike Leggett and the County Council recognized the overwhelming opposition to moving the the Wheaton Library and decided it would stay in its present location. Instead the library is to be renovated and a plan has been put forth to combine it with the recreation center next door. However, funds for this project are in jeopardy and we must make sure that they are kept in the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP).
Your help and support is needed to make sure our library is upgraded and the project moves forward.
Upcoming Announcement on 1/15/12 concerning the Wheaton Library and Community Recreation Center and the FY13 Capital Improvement Plan
View Montgomery County's Capital Improvement Projects proposed for FY13.
Read: Councilman Hans Riemer visits Wheaton Library (Wheaton Patch article)
The County Executive will present the Capital Improvement Project budget to the County Council on Jan 15, 2012. The plan is to combine Wheaton Library and a community recreation center into one connected space. It is scheduled to be part of that budget, but financial constraints are forcing some cutting of the CIP budget and inclusion of this project is uncertain.
The FY13 CIP budget will take effect July 1, 2012. In that proposed budget the Wheaton Library and Rec Center Complex would be funded for architectural design planning. An architect has been assigned, but nothing further can be done without the funding. Dianne Whitaker and the library staff are working now on space and furniture requirements in preparation. It takes about two years, from the time of funding, to get plans finalized before construction could begin. This would include several forums to incorporate community input. Thus, if the project is included in the FY13 budget (which takes effect July 2012), then it could begin construction in July 2014 as part of FY15.
Library improvements were originally scheduled for the FY10 CIP but removed while the debate was resolved about whether to move the library "downtown" to the Wheaton triangle, a few blocks from the Metro stop or keep it in its present location. Following the very effective citizen expressions of concern, "Save Wheaton Library," the decision was made to keep the library where it is. Similar expressions of concern may be needed again to keep the renovation project moving forward.
Talking Points for Communications by E-mail, Letter, or Phone to support an new Wheaton Library and Rec Center complex.
The following are suggested talking points:
- Acknowledge the reality of the constraints the County faces.
- Make a case for the particular needs our community, such as:
- Wheaton has suffered particularly in this economic downturn with a loss of property values. The County needs to act to help Wheaton regain these values; A new Wheaton Library and Rec Center would do this
- Wheaton Library is used by people who are living in conditions that are "crowded" and " not conducive" to study. Many library users rely on the Wheaton Library as "a clean, well-lighted place" in which to work.
- Many Wheaton Library patrons are using it as a base from which to look for jobs, start businesses, and further their education. They need up-to-date technology to do this. For Wheaton Library to provide this technology, there needs to be significant renovations within the building.
- Poor ventilation and distribution of air in the building (too hot in the winter and fall and too cold in the summer in parts of the building: that is, POOR HVAC efficiency.
- Vermin infestation (mice in particular) due to improper foundation structure (cracks and holes in the foundation) and multiple door openings with air gaps and no weather seals. Point to this foundation structure problem. Standing water in the basement for weeks after heavy storms and mold issues stemming from the excessive moisture in the basement.
- Poor lighting: small windows, poorly maintained fixtures, and 35 year old building designed for the 20th not the 21st century use of space.
- Electrical infrastructure not designed for the 21st century use. Building is not designed for wireless use, particularly upstairs, not enough outlets, furniture not designed for technology. The service desks are not designed for 21st technology. The service desks do not have the ability to change and transform service delivery without incurring the cost of renovation.
- Extensive use by local population. Although only 35 years old, many aspects of the facility, for example the bathrooms, furniture and carpet are worn beyond their useful life and present a unpleasant dirty atmosphere as opposed to a clean pleasant gathering space.
- Inadequate security features; doors are wearing out and currently there is long waiting list for lock replacement. It would be better to have electronic door locks like Rockville, Old fire alarm and security system. No security cameras in a very high volume facility (4th highest in the county). Changing community means this should be given higher priority.
- There are many problems with the current community center as well. It is undersized and in extremely poor condition.
Our Fight to Save the Library in 2009
The County's Original Proposal
Save Wheaton Library formed in 2009 in reaction to the County's proposal to move the Wheaton Regional Library to the Central Business District (CBD) as part of the County's plan to redevelop downtown Wheaton. The purpose was to provide an amenity within the CBD to support and kick off the revitalization of the area.
This Was a Bad Idea
While there definitely was a need for creative thinking to develop the CBD to make it into a vibrant arts and entertainment center, we strongly believed that moving the Wheaton Library was not a good idea. We are not anti-development. We support the redevelopment of downtown Wheaton. However, the redevelopment shouldn't have been contingent on relocating the Wheaton Library to the CBD!
Here's why we thought relocating the library was a bad idea and not in the interests of our community and neighborhoods:
- The current Wheaton Library retains an easy and familiar presence.
- The Library reaches out to novice and first-time users (especially children and immigrants). Moving the Library risks alienating a developing set of new patrons, especially those in this multi-cultural hub of the county.
- Planning for saving the Rafferty Center is part of a vision including the Wheaton Library, the Rafferty Center and the Rec Center as the heart of our youth development focus providing "wise choices" for the growing number of latch-key children. This is especially critical since the library is in close proximity to the children of modest income families who can profit from organized programs
- Parking at the Wheaton Library's present site is ample, free, and there are no complications about misuse (as is the case in other CBDs).
- Parking at Wheaton serves the handicapped very well since the entrance is close at hand, not true with some other CBD libraries within the county and in Virginia.
- Low income patrons are further encouraged to use the library since parking is free.
- Some residents state they would not use the library in the CBD (nor allow their children to do so) due to the heavy traffic and difficulties in crossing the streets.
- In these tight financial times it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel, to spend precious taxpayer dollars moving something valuable just to rebuild it a few blocks south.
- The Library as currently situated is easily, safely, and pleasantly accessible by foot and public transportation to thousands of residents in its surrounding neighborhoods.
If you feel the same way, let the County know "loud and clear" that you don't want the library to move.
Comments from the February 9th Public Meeting to Discuss Relocation or Renovation of the Library:
Approximately 200 people attended a meeting to discuss the future of the Wheaton Regional Library on Monday evening. The agenda at this meeting was to gather public opinions prior to the final decision. The two choices presented by the County Library at this meeting was to renovate the building or to relocate it as part of the downtown Wheaton redevelopment. However, during the meeting it was suggested by a member of the audience that a third choice exists: to keep the library where it is but build a smaller "satellite" library downtown. Most thought that was a good idea.
- The County said the library would have to be closed from 1 1/2 -2 years for renovation. However, an attendee who is in the construction field said that a "rolling renovation" could take place where parts of the library would remain open while others would be renovated.
- As stated before, this is not an either/or situation as the County originally stated. A smaller library could be built downtown while maintaining the present library where it is (the Library official agreed this was possible but hadn't really been discussed). It was pointed out by another attendee that the savings that would come with a renovation rather than a relocation would save $10 million and that could be applied to the building of the smaller downtown library.
- Security was a big issue. Many felt they would not feel comfortable leaving their children at the downtown location. Many feel the open parking lot at the present library is safer than a covered structure that would be downtown (especially for women). Also, school buses use the present library to drop children off from school. Many parents expressed concern about dropping their children off at a downtown library.
- Almost everyone voiced the notion that while they supported the redevelopment of downtown Wheaton it should not be at the cost of altering the neighborhood quality of the present library site. It's certainly conceivable that downtown could be revitalized without a library. There are other choices. In other words, the redevelopment does not depend on having a library downtown.
- Our neighborhood had been ignored for many years. The Rescue Squad was forced to buy property for its new buildings at the corner of Arcola and Georgia because they were unable and unsupported in trying to find more room in the downtown area for over 25 years. The relocation of the Rescue Squad to a residential neighborhood is going to affect the quality of life. And the Rec Center, which for a number of reasons, is far below par for recreation centers in other more affluent parts of the county. The relocation of the library would be just another action that would reduce the quality of life in our neighborhood. The initial recommendation to move the library downtown was made by a committee of people who don't even live here.
- If the County decides to relocate the library, the property at its present location would be offered to other County agencies and, if no agency was interested, would be offered for private redevelopment. The officials at this meeting told us the County will not be able to tell us what would be done with this property before making the decision to move the library. This bit of our neighborhood could turn into County offices or more high density housing.
History of the Wheaton Library Building Project
The county has a web page outlining the history of the Wheaton Library Building Project. You may view it here.