Abington Library Board President Garrett Page usually relays glowing stats — about Abington residents’ library use — during Abington Public Affairs Committee meetings. He admitted as such last night, but used the word “flowery” instead.
Last night though, Page said he was there to support the possible acquisition of what could be a larger Roslyn Branch Library. Joining him were members of the Abington Library administration as well as other board members.
“To cut to the chase, an improved and larger Roslyn [Library] branch would benefit not just the library, but the entire township and indeed the entire region,” Page said.
The case for a newer, larger Roslyn branch library has been around for months. And about five days ago, the former Bank of America building, located at 1185 Easton Road, was put up for auction by Absolute Auction out of New Jersey. The piece of property, near the corner of Bradfield and Easton roads, has been on the market for about two years, but will be hitting the auction block Oct. 27.
Abington Assistant Township Manager Matt Lahaza gave an overview of the defunct bank; there was no action item on the agenda.
According to Lahaza, the 4,200-square-foot, rectangular building features a large open space in the center of the building, a tellers’ station to the right, and a room with a safe door to the rear of the building. The property has 17 parking spaces compared to the two spaces at the current Roslyn branch library.
On the downside, the safe door (see picture) would cost about $30,000 to remove (though the door and the contents in that room would have significant scrap value); part of the floor has asbestos tile under the carpet; there is mold in the basement; the building has not been tested for radon; and many of the single-pane windows would have to be replaced down the road.
The cost? It’s hard to tell. According to Lahaza, the bank rejected a $260,000 offer for the building and the building is assessed at about $500,000 through the county. The building would also need an estimated $89,000 in repairs, including mold mitigation, new carpets, paint and computer wiring.
“It would be a ‘last opportunity’ for ours at this location,” Lahaza said … “Our best projection is that the Absolute bid would be somewhere between [$260,000 and $504,000] unless bidding is extensive … however the property has been on the market for close to two years now.”
According to Lahaza, the township originally had $1.6 million in place to relocate the Roslyn Branch Library, but lost about $600,000 in county grant money. The grant expires Dec. 30 and Lahaza said, “It’s not at all likely that the county grant money can be salvaged.”
There is about $195,000 originally reserved for the moving-the-Roslyn-Library-project. Lahaza said the money is sitting in reserve in the economic development budget.
Also, the Friends of Abington Library group pledged about $200,000.
Page, prior to the presentation, cited “main branch growth” as one of the reasons for the need for a larger Roslyn branch. He said from 2000 to 2009, library usage increased by 88 percent; circulation went up by 34 percent in the same time frame. Page also said that current Roslyn branch staff work in “pretty much deplorable conditions.”
“This is a unique opportunity, commissioners, that may not come again,” Page said. “I’m a deacon at my church and in the Baptist faith there’s a song that I sang in the Swarthmore alumni choir. The beginnings lyrics were, ‘Please do not let this harvest pass,’” referring to the possible acquisition of the defunct bank. “We’re asking you to be a part of the puzzle.”
Resident Robert Sklaroff questioned why the parcel known as The Grove Property — which is located in Roslyn, was recently acquired by the township, and is undergoing slight renovations — was not a suitable location for the Roslyn Library. When he asked Lahaza if it was possible, Lahaza simply said, “No.”
Abington Commissioner James Ring said that he had a lot of questions about a potential purchase; he and other commissioners asked for more time to look at the report.
Commissioner William Lynott said, “In terms of the actual acquisition, we really shouldn’t be discussing it here. This is a matter for executive session. It’s really not proper to be discussed here.”
The Abington Board of Commissioners meeting will be held Oct. 13. Check back for details.