To the editor:
Who knew that Peter Reid would choose to continue to beat that dead horse, so long after its demise? In his letter published last week he continues to whale away at several pet peeves with the about-to-be-completed library project: a) that the book store, cafe and meeting room compete with Beach businesses; b) a referendum should have been held; c) that budgets were obfuscated; and, d) most ridiculous of all, 600 critics signed a protest petition.
In reverse order, d) the petition: continually inflated by the core group of protesters, there were a total of 423 purported signers of the rather lame petition, which was addressed NOT to the Library Board but rather to the Town Council. "Richard M. Nixon" signed, as did one woman three times. Nearly half (45%) of the "signatures" were illegible, only 10 percent provided telephone numbers, and nearly one in five (80) supplied no address. So, considerably fewer than half of the alleged 423 signers could be verified as taxpayers in the library district by any reasonable means. At most they could potentially amount to less than two percent of the households in the district. Obfuscation, anyone?
The budgets: c) received "clean" audit reports annually and, at the instigation of the core group of protesters, were reviewed by two separate State agencies and the Lee County Commissioners. Not one of these agencies found any reason to criticize the budgets as adopted. As for b) holding a referendum, Mr. Reid is correct that it was not required and would have cost the taxpayers several thousand dollars and, at the time it was first proposed by his group, significant delays in the construction schedule. Both the Town and the Fire District have undertaken numbers of major projects routinely without holding a referendum. That is how representative government usually works.
Quibble, indeed, it is to object to a) the bookstore, which has existed for many years in Seagrape Plaza as a wholly volunteer effort of the Friends of the Library, or a meeting room for which there is no comparable space anywhere in the district, or for a small cafe providing snacks and beverages for Wi-Fi and other users of the Commons Area. The latter was a very popular item on the wish list for members of the focus groups consulted during the planning process.
Dispassionate comment - not so you'd notice. Although it is a good thing that individuals have finally surfaced after all these years to compete for positions on the Library Board, it would be much better for our community if they could demonstrate their longer-term interest in the mission of the library by a history of volunteer service to that institution. Incumbents Lorrie Wolf and Sallie Seabury have served admirably as volunteers on the board for several terms each and Miffie Greer has volunteered many hours there. All three deserve your support.
Pat A. Smith
Fort Myers Beach