Opinion… A Vote for Bay Library

Here’s hoping the City of Bay Village will move forward with plans for a new Bay Village Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library on the site of Bay Way Cabin in Cahoon Park.

Controversy is swirling around the project today. We hope it goes away soon.

A lawsuit, filed by a Cleveland Hts. woman who has a history of opposing CCPL issues, asks the Probate Court of Cuyahoga County to stop the City of Bay Village from “Committing a breach of trust” by providing a parcel of land in Cahoon Park for the construction of a CCPL branch.

We hope the suit is dismissed as frivolous.

The woman appears to us to be bringing personal issues to a public stage.

She was once involved in a hair-pulling incident with CCPL Executive Director Sari Feldman, earning herself an assault conviction that was eventually overturned on a legal technicality, according to news sources.

Her opposition to a new library is joined by some members of the Bay Village community who feel City Council members (in their roles as Cahoon Park trustees) have acted surreptitiously in making plans with the CCPL.

Others say the issue should be put to a vote. Maybe another site (like the existing location behind Bay Middle School or the Forestview School site) could be used for a new library.

There are problems in all this thinking.

  • The Cuyahoga County Public Library is the entity with $7 million to invest in Bay Village. CCPL does not have to build subject to a ballot issue, or on a location designated by voters. After plans to build in Huntington Metroparks were dropped last year, the Cahoon Park locale was identified through discussions with city officials. Does the city really want to leave $7 million on the table if this falls through? What would you decide if you were a Cahoon Park Trustee? If the City doesn’t take the Cahoon Park proposal, it might be left with no site at all.
  • Those who say the city has not kept citizens informed about the library issue haven’t been paying attention. A letter from Bay Village City Council to CCPL head Sari Feldman expressing interest in discussing the Bay Village site was sent on Jan. 3 and published by The Villager on Feb. 3. It has been widely discussed on social media.
  • The lawsuit filed in Probate Court to enjoin the city from entering into the CCPL-Cahoon Park agreement should, in our opinion, be dismissed as frivolous. Bay Village prevailed in a Cahoon Park Declaratory Judgement case in 2005 regarding the location of the new police station. It doesn’t need to be done again. The city has not compromised the terms of the will. In fact, the park’s sanctity has been improved with additions like the north side walking trail at the time the Dover Bay Gun Club was removed. The allegations of the new lawsuit can, in our opinion, be easily dismissed, especially in the challenges to the semantics of the Will. If anything, the relocation of Kiddie Kollege will actually return the Park more closely to a passive, non-enterprise standard. This new challenge is a waste of taxpayer money and counter to the public interest in our view. And as for the Library having autonomy from Park rules, all the City has to do is write the Cahoon Provisions into the Library agreement.
  • The new Library will be open Sundays. The Will prohibits Sunday activities in only limited provision: “That no boating, bathing, games or sports shall be permitted on said Park or property on Sunday.”

On the Flip Side

For others who are pulling hair out over this issue, there is some ammo on the flip side if you want the Bay Branch rebuilt on its present site.

The City of Parma Hts. resisted CCPL plans to build a new library and instead coaxed city officials to press for a remodel. The result? An $850,000 renovation instead of a multi-million dollar new build. It can be done! But the pressure needs to come from the public. And you don’t get the $7 million either! You get a lot less. Better call your Council rep ASAP if this means you!

As for the Cahoon Will, it does call for a Library in the park. But the wording specifies it to be in the old Cahoon homestead. “I hereby direct that the dwelling house now standing on said land and which was built in 1818, shall be forever maintained and used as a Library and Museum,” says the Will. Rose Hill Museum fills the requirement now, it does not call for anything beyond what is already there.

The survey used by CCPL indicating Bay Village Library customers want a new building is skewed. 325 out of 574 respondents to a survey by the Cuyahoga County Library said a new branch in Bay Village is a good idea. But the survey was sent only to Bay Village library card holders. That is not a valid survey by any objective standard.

The City has been open about Library talks in general. As early as last November, Interim Mayor Gary Ebert said, regarding Bay Library: “I’d like to resurrect those talks because I’m not aware that there has been a discussion among council concerning that or the public input other than the one meeting – a lot of people didn’t even know what was going on as far as the Metroparks. I’d like to resurrect that. I think it’s vital and I’d rather see a new library built in some location – whether it be by the Metroparks or some other location…Plus it also dovetails with the Bay Village Board of Education because that would be a great location if they could take over that building and move from the current location of Dover and Wolf.”

Library officials have also discussed the possibility of a new Bay Branch for many months. Bay Village is the only branch in the Cuyahoga County Public Library system not yet touched by a renovation or replacement.

No, officials have not shared many details. But maybe that is because there is nothing ‘official’ yet! And yes, leaders can improve the way library conversations are proceeding. There seems to be a fear that conversational information may be taken as fact. But there is no need to say nothing at all or wait to be asked ‘off the record.” Just indicate that nothing is yet official and keep people in the loop.

For those who argue that ‘more’ is not ‘better,’ remember that CCPL officials are hired to create and maintain the best system they see possible. Director Sari Feldman works for a court-appointed 7 member board of trustees. “The purpose of the Board of Library Trustees is to do all things it deems necessary for the establishment, maintenance, and improvement of the public library under its jurisdiction.” Building new libraries comes with the territory. So don’t be surprised when ‘better’ does mean ‘more’ when it comes to creating bigger and bigger public institutions.

Let’s Build It!

At the end of the day, Bay Village’s decision to move forward with the CCPL-Cahoon Park deal seems like a no-brainer. The city gets a $7 million upgrade, very little is sacrificed other than an obsolete building, and the Will is not only upheld, but enhanced by a larger and better library that was originally limited by the minimum requirements of the Will. Bay Village should embrace this project!

 (Ed. Note: Law Director Gary Ebert reports that the City is filing to have the Declaratory Judgement suit dismissed this week. There are several problems with the way the suit was filed, including its Pro Se status, by an individual without an attorney who does not live in the community where the Trust agreement exists).

Upcoming Events for Bay Village

State of the City Address by Mayor Paul Koomar

Wednesday, May 31 at 11 a.m. at the Dwyer Senior Center. Come hear Mayor Koomar as he summarizes the financial standing of the city, as well as highlight major projects and progress of each of the City’s departments. There will also be time to answer any questions that you may have. It is a wonderful opportunity to hear first-hand what is going on in Bay Village. RSVP 440-835-6565.

Bay Village Community Theater

The Bay Village Community will present a staged reading of J.M. Barrie’s “The Twelve Pound Look” on Saturday, May 20 at 2 p.m. at O’Neill Healthcare’s Main Lounge and on Sunday, May 21 at 6 p.m. at Mojo’s Coffee and More. Barrie’s most known work is Peter Pan. In this one act manner’s comedy, Barrie treats the issue of women’s rights in the early 20th century with gentleness and humor. Admission is free and donations will be accepted.

Grand Re-Opening of Play in Bay Playground

The Bay Village Foundation Board of Trustees will host a grand re-opening celebration for the Play in Bay Playground Saturday, May 13 from 3 – 5 p.m. The event, chaired by Mindy Stroh, will include food, ice cream, face painting, and a balloon artist for a fun-filled afternoon for the whole family. At 3:30 p.m., The Bay Village Community Council will recognize the Citizen and Project of the Year.

In 2015, The Bay Village Foundation announced a major community project to celebrate twenty years of growth. The Foundation planned to raise $100,000 to refurbish and enhance the 20 year old wood structure of Play in Bay by covering the railings and post caps and replacing the decking with composite material; and, by repairing old playground features and adding new ones. This gift to the children of Bay Village was achieved thanks to the generosity of many Bay citizens, clubs and groups, and local businesses. For more information about projects, grants and scholarships see: thebayvillagefoundation.org.

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