Opening the Book
A silver lining exists in Hanover Borough’s decision to consolidate the Guthrie Memorial Library to one floor and begin renting out the third floor to an event/catering company run by the owners of the Broken Cookie.
Lots more people now realize the limitations of the folks making decisions on Frederick Street.
Let me say up front that the idea of consolidating the space and renting out the unused portions does not bother me that much. The borough needed to find new ways to limit costs and bring in revenue. This might not have been my first choice, but it isn’t the worst thing I have every heard.
That said, this was not the way to go about it. Every time I think about it (and every time my blood pressure goes up), I think of more questions that no one in charge seemed to consider. And if they did consider them, they haven’t given us the answers. In fact, they have given us very little and told us to be satisfied with what we know and shut up and schedule our lives around their meetings (none of which have pre-published agendas so folks can have an idea of what’s in the works) on the off chance the discuss something important and don’t find a reason to turn it into an executive session so we can’t know what’s going on.
So beyond the “Where are the agendas and detailed minutes” question, we have to wonder whether an RFP (Request for Proposals) was available for anyone who wanted to rent this space to submit. Were there any guidelines for what the borough wanted or was it first come, first served? Who are these mysterious other groups that were approached about renting the space? Were there consistent ideas from the borough or did they just need someone, anyone to step up as soon as possible?
If Barb Krebs can tell us how much money will be earned ($84,000 per year according to the newspaper), why can’t she tell us the square footage being rented? Do they know that? If they don’t, how did they come up with the income? If they do, how did they benchmark the rental rate against other properties downtown? If so, this is a sweetheart deal because the per square foot rate is somewhere around a buck per square foot (based on the maximum rental space available). You won’t find that anywhere. You’ll probably be lucky to find $10 per square foot.
Is the soon-to-be-former children’s library a suitable space for receptions? Has the fire marshal set a capacity limit? Where will the kitchen be? Is the area proposed for the kitchen rated for that kind of use? Are there enough emergency exits? Are there enough bathrooms? Is there enough parking? Are the hours they can hold events limited? If not, how will that affect library business?
There obviously have to be renovations. Who is paying for those? What is the time frame? Will borough staff be involved at all? How will it impact library patrons?
The children’s library was supported by a donation. What does that donor feel about this? What do any of the donors feel about this? Were they contacted? What if they want there money back? Were they included in any of the discussions beforehand?
I feel bad for the Broken Cookie owners. I want them to succeed, but they are embroiled in something not of their doing. Like I said, I hope it works out. But what if it doesn’t? What protections are there in the lease for the boro? They have to make a “donation” of $40,000 in addition to their rent. Is that a personal donation? Are there limits to how they have to raise it? Do they have to do it every year?
If they want our input at meetings so bad, why don’t they tell us what is going to happen at meetings? Yeah, back to the agenda thing. I can tell what is going on at upcoming school board meetings with a few mouse clicks. The borough, not so much. If none of this is secret, why the rush? Why wasn’t it proposed informationally at one meeting to gain public input before voting? Why have discussion AFTER the vote to approve the lease? Why not put word out that the borough has plans to rent part of the space and interested businesses can fill out an RFP? Yeah, back to that.
It all comes back to basic communication. Which makes Krebs’ claim just under three years ago when she got the job that she wanted to develop a “new plan for better communication from the borough.”
Apparently that plan is “read the damn meeting list and show up. If you can’t do that, shut your piehole because John Gerken and I know what’s best for everyone.” I’ve been complaining about that for a while. Now everyone knows the deal.