Budget Threatens Plans For Added Pasadena Library

January 25, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

The county executive's no-growth budget and the condition of the Long Point Mall may scrap plans to build a second library in Pasadena this year.

Edward Hall, director of the county library system, said yesterday that he cannot recommend adding a branch at a time when thestate is pulling money out from under the system and County Executive Robert R. Neall has asked department heads for no-growth budgets. The financial squeeze already has forced Hall to eliminate Sunday hours at four libraries.

Hall said he related his position in a letter to Neall.

"That doesn't mean I'm opposed to doing it," he said of the Long Point project. "People shouldn't misconstrue that. I'm just not willing to makesevere cuts in my budget to do it. The decision is up to Mr. Neall now."

Through spokesman Louise Hayman, Neall said no decisions havebeen made and "everything is open to change."

Neall will submit alist of capital budget objectives to the Planning Advisory Board next month.

Last year, the County Council responded to a 4,500-signature petition and allocated $49,000 to plan a storefront library at the Long Point Mall, on the eastern end of the Lake Shore peninsula. Another $521,000 would have to be approved by the council and the county executive this year to build and stock the so-called Mountain Road Branch.

Hall said it would cost $230,000 a year to run the library.

The state already has told the county library system that it will lose $118,000 anticipated in next year's budget, prompting the library board to recommend discontinuing Sunday hours at four major branches next July.

The department's annual operating budget is $10 million. Shutting off Sunday services at the West Street, Crofton, Harundale and Severna Park libraries would save $190,000.

Another majorproblem, Hall said, is that Long Point Mall has significant structural problems and may not be acceptable as a library site.

Store managers at the mall report that toilets don't work, the asphalt in the parking lot has been reduced to rubble and the roof leaks badly. Several stores have suffered water damage, and buckets are scattered throughout Sight Unlimited, a combination video rental, tanning salon andbaseball card outlet.

One manager complained that she had to haveorthopedic surgery on her knee last year after she fell into "an enormous pothole" and damaged some cartilage. A dry cleaner in the mall ships its clothes to another outlet because the mall's well-water plumbing is too unreliable.

The mall, owned by the Cusimano & Sons Inc. is on the market for $1.6 million. Listing agent Mike Bocchichio of Champion Realty said the necessary renovations "would be done either by a buyer or by the seller" in time for the county to build the library.

Two store managers, who asked not to be identified, said they were skeptical the repairs would be made because they have been complaining about the problems for years.

News that the library project is in danger has set off alarms at the Chesapeake Women's Club. The 40-member service organization has been struggling since 1984 to get the county to build a second Pasadena library on the peninsula. Residents have to drive at least 10 miles to reach the Riviera Beach branch.

"This is quite a shock," said Virginia Stewart, an early supporter of the library plan. "I can't see that this is one of the areas that they would want to cut just now. Not with 4,500 signatures ofpeople who have voiced their support for it and a community that continues to grow around here."

The signatures were gathered in a massive campaign in February and March 1988. The club coordinated with several schools, markets, churches and community associations to persuade a skeptical county library board of the need for a second libraryin Pasadena.

Stewart said that she knew the project was in some trouble because the Long Point Mall is in such "deplorable condition" but that she hadn't anticipated the fiscal squeeze.

Club PresidentJeanne Tate said she was "very sad" but vowed to keep pushing.

Tate said she had asked Jan. 4 for a meeting with Neall to discuss the library project, but so far has received no response from his office.

News that the project is threatened seemed to take newly elected County Councilman Carl "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, by surprise. His aide, Susan Pogue, said Tuesday she knew of no developments with the library plan.

By Wednesday night, however, Holland had met with Neall and said there may be alternative ways to save the project.

"Ihave met with the county executive on this, and we have a better alternative in mind," he said, "but I don't want to get people's hopes up and release the details now."

Holland and Neall both inherited the project from their predecessors, Edward C. "Buddy" Ahern and O. James Lighthizer, respectively.

Hall said the alternative plan -- tobuild a prefab "Port-a-structure" library -- would cost at least $100,000 more than the storefront plan, not including the price of land.

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