BELLOWS FALLS -- Citizens gathered outside the Rockingham Free Public Library Monday morning to protest a decision by the facility's board of trustees to temporarily close it.
The trustees voted, 5-1, Saturday to shut down the library until the end of July in order for renovations to be completed by Engelberth Construction Co. The board had voted previously but had to meet again Saturday night after its members learned of a state law requiring a minimum of five people voting in the affirmative.
The debate over whether or not to close the library has gotten heated recently, as many members of the public feel the trustees have an ulterior motive or hidden agenda behind their drive for closure.
Elayne Clift, a former trustee and current head of the Friends of the Rockingham Library, told the Reformer she attended Monday's demonstration because there is no reason to close the building, regardless of what the trustees say.
"I'm a great believer in those types of activity," she said, adding that she thinks roughly 20 people showed up. "It's very important to have these acts of civil disobedience, or whatever you want to call them."
Clift said the closure is putting tremendous stress on the library's three full-time employees and seven part-time workers. She said closing the building and moving the library's services elsewhere will cost more than it could ever possibly save.
Trustees have said there is asbestos that must be removed and the building's elevator is not compliant with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. But Clift said there is no ADA violation. She called the trustee's action a "power grab."
Trustee Vice Chairwoman Deborah Wright said the elevator is indeed in violation of the ADA because anyone with a physical disability does not have complete access to the library. She also said the estimate of 20 people at the protest is exaggerated -- adding that she counted eight.
Wright said she was most concerned about the protesters blocking pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk.
Lt. Shane Harris, of the Bellows Falls Police Department, said Chief Ron Lake drove by the demonstration Monday morning and spoke with someone there. Harris said there were no issues with the protesters.
Wright also said temporarily closing the building is the safe thing to do and the workers are allowed to work inside to pack up the library's contents only because a fire marshal issued a certificate of occupancy.
The Rockingham Selectboard will be given an update on the library situation at its meeting today at 6:30 p.m.
Also, the library trustees have a meeting slated for Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the WOOL radio station at 33 Bridge St.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.