LARGO - The demise of the old Largo library building was reminiscent of the words blared forth by Oliver Wendell Holmes pere when the venerable old ship, U.S.S. Constitution was headed for the scrap yard.
"Ay, tear her battered ensign down!" Holmes wrote about Old Ironsides 176 years ago and thus saved the ship which still floats.
But no one was there to utter stirring words to save the old library building when Largo's City Commission decided to level it and build something new in the future with money that may come from Penny for Pinellas funds.
The building might have had a future at one point and at the same time would have brought prestige to Largo. It would have been a no-cost venture and Largo might have gotten a reputation of something other than a city of trailer parks.
St. Petersburg College wanted to establish a new school there that would have dealt in prosthetics a field of study and expertise that has grown in importance given current happenings.
But, no, a then member of the commission and now the mayor of the city, Pat Gerard, wanted the folks she worked for to have an arts center there. This blatant example of conflict of interest was shrugged off in Largo where such odiferous activities are a matter of course.
And so SPC's president was discourteously shoved aside and procedure went forward apace.
Then came last week.
It turned out the price of rehabilitating the building had jumped from some $2.3 million - a figure attested to by experts in the city administration - to a whopping $5.2 million.
Included in that was a doubling of the money that the city would put towards a memorial to Martin Luther King.
That figure, as of July, 2003, was $15,000 and was laid down with great solemnity and gravity by Commissioner Harriet Crozier - "Fifteen thousand dollars and no more."
The city went to the trouble of laying out for the commission all the expenses attendant to making the old building usable for the pursuit of arts and senior center activities.
Almost $2 million for building renovations, another $1.5 million to re-do the air conditioning, plumbing, wiring, etc. A half million dollars for furniture and fixtures and another half million on top of that for "design."
Keep in mind that when the commission authorized the idea of keeping the old library building and using it as an arts and senior center it did so on the basis that fixing it up would cost $2.3 million.
So many eyebrows snapped upwards when the figure came in at well over $5 million.
Commissioner Andy Guyette wisely came up with the idea of demolishing the building and doing something about putting something else there later.
In addition to money considerations, Guyette pointed out that the library did not lend itself, in its interior figurations, to be very functional for the stated purposes intended. His colleagues went along with him in a consensus decision.
At the same time, the King memorial was presumably put on the back burner, because its location and conformation depended on how the rehabbed library building would be set up.
As to the doubled price - who knows? Private funds were supposed to pay for much of the memorial. But except at the outset when such an arrangement was talked about, nothing much has been heard.
Was any money raised? If so, how much? And where is it?
It is never mentioned.
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