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Carbondale trustees take another look at library use

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Kelley Cox / Post Independent
Staff Photo |

CARBONDALE — Tonight the town’s Board of Trustees will take its second look at a trio of proposals for using the old Gordon Cooper Library building, at the corner of Fourth and Garfield, which is soon to revert to ownership by the town.

There are three formal proposals before the town — a “Family Enrichment Center” where young children can pass the day; a museum to showcase (but not sell) the works of noted sculptor James Surls; and a performing arts center.

As of Monday the town had received a total of 322 expressions of support for one project or the other, in the form of letters and petitions.

Of those received by the town and included in tonight’s trustee packet of information, according to a tally by the Post Independent, there were seven endorsements for a performing arts center, 23 for the James Surls Museum (including a petition bearing seven signatures); and 292 for the Family Enrichment Center.

Of those in favor of the Family Enrichment Center, 50 were in the form of individual letters, and 242 were signatures on petitions circulated around town by the proposal’s supporters.

One letter, by longtime local resident John “Doc” Philip, did not endorse any of the three, though Philip did reject the idea of using the building for a museum dedicated to the work of Surls as “absolutely stupid. This old one-person artist is not from Carbondale. This old one-person artist could simply die tomorrow. Then what.”

In keeping with his public persona as a town jokester, Philip suggested the trustees should consider turning the library building over to the Ute Indian tribes “to become a gambling hall, casino and bar,” and other fanciful suggestions.

Those supporting the Surls museum idea, however, argued that it would add to the town’s already growing reputation as an artistic and free-thinking community, as well as attracting tourists who would spend money at Carbondale businesses.

“Carbondale is one of the strongest arts communities in Colorado,” declared Lon Winston, executive artistic director of the Thunder River Theater in downtown Carbondale. Noting that the town already has performance spaces in several venues, he continued, “What we don’t have is an art museum.”

Randi Lowenthal, a Carbondale resident and business consultant, suggested a Surls museum “would support Amy Kimberly, CCAH, and others in their effort to engage everyone in a project to identify and plan for a designation by the State of Colorado of Carbondale as a Creative District.”

But Don Van Devender, longtime local businessman, argued against Carbondale philanthropist and Surls supporter Jim Calaway’s suggestion that the museum be granted an annual rent of $1 in return for a plan to renovate and expand the library building to accommodate the museum plans.

“I think Jim Calaway is a wonderful person and a great neighbor, but to propose a museum for $1 per year rent is not acceptable,” Van Devender wrote in his letter.

He preferred the proposal for the Family Enrichment Center, with its plan to pay the town $3,000 a month in rent, writing, “I think a place for children to interact with other children and their families would be an excellent use of the space.”

Another supporter of the Family Enrichment Center, Eric Baumheier, wrote that he “would much rather see more gardens in the neighborhood, as proposed by the Family Enrichment Center, then a doubling of the current building’s size,” as is proposed for the Surls museum.

Danika Davis, a young mother who moved to Carbondale from Australia in 2009, wrote that her family’s first couple of years here were difficult, in large part because they felt isolated.

“If the Family Enrichment Center had been available during this time, my family would’ve had access to essential social and early childhood experiences, easing the transition into the community,” she wrote in a letter to the town.

The time for the trustee discussion about the proposals, as well as to take more public comment, is scheduled at 7:20 p.m., although times listed on the agenda are not always completely reliable.

Prior to the library discussion, the trustees will hold a meeting with the Garfield County commissioners, starting at approximately 6 p.m. One specific item for discussion with the commissioners is the plan to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to the Red Hill Recreation Area to the north of the intersection of Colorado highways 133 and 82.

Following the meeting with the trustees, the commissioners have scheduled a Joint Town Hall Meeting to provide citizens a chance to talk with their county leaders, starting at about 6:50 p.m.

The meetings are open to the public, and take place at the Town Hall, 511 Colorado Ave.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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