Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Jewel in the Crown

New Library: A Jewel in the Crown
A little history is in order here. The original purchase of the Hemphill-Wells Building was pushed through as a matter too urgent to allow for study and reflection. The city absolutely needed this space right now. I contended we could afford to look at other options, or at least further inspect the H-W Bldg. as to its suitability for our needs. I recall suggesting H-W would make a lovely library and open Ed Keyes for office space. Mayor Fender informed me the building was structurally incompatible with a library, the votes were in hand, and the purchase was approved forthwith.

I signed on with a move to petition for recall of the Council members voting in favor, one of the dumber things I've done. The public focus moved from the purchase itself to the recall, which went nowhere. In retrospect, at least for many years, neither did San Angelo's new acquisition. The city got to pay for asbestos abatement and has received use of the street level windows for posting signs and such. The lesson for politically active people; being right is not enough, if one opts for stupid tactics, one still loses.

Fortunately for San Angelo, wiser and cooler heads prevailed, and it appears the transformation of the Hemphill-Wells into a library is well on its way. This effort took a lot of people working together, and I don't wish to slight any of them. I do think a special attaboy needs to go out to Ralph Hoelscher. With polite, but dogged persistance, he got this on the agenda, got City and County governments to sit down together, and kept it on the table until a consensus was worked out. Another big attaboy to Steve and Pollyanna Stephens for a two million dollar contribution to the cause to bring it to the realizable stage.

As planned now, we will get a much larger library with a surrounding balcony, use the basement for really dense stacks, with room left over for government offices, possibly some compatible commercial use. We have invested a great deal of effort and money in downtown revitalization, if this gets done as planned, it will be the jewel in the crown of downtown.

The San Angelo Area Foundation has agreed with the county to act as Fund Administrator, accepting donations for the library project. We will need to raise about $9.5 million for the capital fund. The official fundraising effort will begin in January, but the Foundation is ready to accept donations now. Donations will be tax deductible and donations made prior to Dec. 31, 2005 will be deductible on 2005 tax returns. Checks should be payable to San Angelo Area Foundation, with “Beacon to the Future Fund” on the memo line. The address is

Beacon To The Future Fund
San Angelo Area Foundation
2201 Sherwood Way, Suite 205
San Angelo, Texas 76901

My check is on the way. This is a chance to help bring about something that will be an asset to San Angelo long after we are gone. No tax increase, only the willing need apply, this is how free people make good things happen.

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