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Commission votes to take Mason Square Library by eminent domain

Date: 3/10/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- It s probably a safe bet that applause and cheering have seldom been heard in a meeting of the Library Commission, but those occurred with the unanimous vote to proceed with the eminent domain taking of the former Mason Square branch library building from the Urban League.

The process will now go to a vote of the City Council. City Councilors Patrick Markey and Bud Williams attended the meeting and Williams would like to see the vote come before the Council at the earliest possible time.

Williams added he is very optimistic there are sufficient votes on the council for the action.

After the roll call vote was taken, Library Commissioner Sheila McElwaine thanked Librarian Reggie Wilson and former Mayor Charles Ryan for their efforts in bringing the library back to the neighborhoods that border Mason Square. Both men were in attendance.

McElwaine recalled how she met with Ryan at his home in 2003 after the Springfield Library and Museum Association sold the newly renovated branch library to the Urban League. She noted that Ryan spent many hours researching the issue.

Commissioner Vera O Connor brought to the meeting the text of a statement she made to the City Council in 2003 about the sale of the library. When she was asked her vote by chair Stephen Carey, she answered, Emphatically yes.

Carey noted the process to return the building to the use as a full service library is not anything that is finished. He added the way the commission had reached its decision had been done in a public manner with a lot of light on it.

Library Director Emily Bader said the city must conduct a title search on the property as well as an appraisal of the building and a structural assessment before the matter goes to the City Council.