WEYMOUTH — Reckless. Preposterous. Unacceptable.
These are some of the terms town officials are using to describe an urban design company’s suggestion to include office space in a revamped Fogg Library in South Weymouth, a beloved historic building.
The suggestion was made by David O’Connor, senior landscape architect at The Cecil Group, at an Oct. 4 meeting at the Old South Union Church in Columbian Square. The town hired the Boston-based Cecil Group to come up with ways to improve the square’s attractiveness.
“It was a ridiculous statement at a public meeting,” said Town Councilor Michael Smart, one of two councilors who represent South Weymouth. “Where would this person even get the idea that we’re going to take this hundred-year-old building and lease it or sell to someone?”
Mayor David Madden said there is no way the Fogg Library can or will incorporate office space.
“There is absolutely no basis for that,” he said. “I have consistently stated that the Fogg Library will be part of the library system. I think those who are making those claims are perpetuating unfounded fears.”
The library has been closed since 2005 because of moisture problems. It was built in 1897 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Planned repairs are expected to be completed by the middle of next year.
O’Connor said he was surprised at the response to his suggestion that the building could, in addition to its library use, benefit from leasing space for offices, possibly from neighboring South Shore Hospital.
“We were looking for opportunities to energize the square, looking for things that would add life to the square,” O’Connor said. “I wasn’t aware of the overall controversy of the hospital using the library. We were surprised.”
O’Connor and Madden said there have been discussions but nothing has been decided.
“We’ve looked at how to maximize the use of the space,” Madden said. “Do you make it more of a reading room, or a place where people can come in and have coffee while they’re perusing the magazines? You can’t have a library there and have office space. There is no space in there for office space.”
The feasibility of the idea has not stopped the neighborhood and officials from voicing fierce opposition to any change in the use of the Fogg Library. Town councilors spoke against the idea at a meeting Monday night.
Pleasant Street resident Mary Sue Ryan said the consensus among residents is clear.
“That building certainly should be kept in the hands of the town and should never in any way be privatized,” she said. “That is a very historic building. The town has guarded that.”
The town will spend $380,000 in community preservation money to repair the exterior of the building to prevent water from seeping in.
The town is currently seeking bids on the work and plans to hire a company this month to do it. The work is expected to be completed in June.
Madden said it will be up to Weymouth’s next mayor to decide when the library is ready to reopen. Sue Kay and Colin McPherson are vying to succeed Madden. The election will be held Nov. 6.