Providence to pay $5M to obtain library buildings
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A long-running dispute over Providence's library buildings came to a storybook ending on Thursday as Mayor Angel Taveras announced a deal between the city and the two independent nonprofits that run the library system.
The agreement calls for the Providence Public Library to transfer seven branch library buildings that it owns to the city under a 20-year lease-purchase agreement that costs $5 million, Taveras said. The Providence Community Library will continue to operate the city's nine branch libraries. One branch is already located in a city-owned building, and the other has a long-term lease, officials said.
"This is a wonderful way to end 2011," said Taveras, who unveiled the plan at the Smith Hill Library. He said the City Council still has to sign off on the agreement. Several city councilors attended the announcement to show their support.
Under the deal, the city plans to make annual payments to the Providence Public Library to lease the buildings. The city will own them outright at the end of the lease. The agreement was mediated by retired Superior Court Judge Mark Pfeiffer, Taveras said.
The resolution guarantees the future of the city's neighborhood branches and will open the door for the Providence Community Library to qualify for funding to repair the aging buildings, officials said.
"This is a shining moment for our city," said Marcus Mitchell, president of the Providence Community Library's board of directors.
Unlike most systems nationwide, Providence's libraries are not run by city government but by nonprofits. Both groups receive public funding.
The older institution is the Providence Public Library, which was founded in 1875 and operates a large library in the city's downtown. The library provides the public with $3 million in services annually, said William Simmons, chairman of its board of trustees.
The Providence Public Library also ran the city's neighborhoods branches up until two years ago, said library Director Dale Thompson. She said after receiving level funding from the city from 2001 to 2009, the Providence Public Library could no longer offer the same level of service at its neighborhood branches.
The Providence Community Library formed at the end of 2008 and then took over management of the neighborhood branches in 2009, Mitchell said. The city provided the group with $3.6 million annually that had been previously given to the Providence Public Library to run its neighborhood branches, he said.
The Providence Public Library also donated more than $1 million in branch materials, books and tools and agreed to lease the branch buildings to the city for $1 a year. That lease agreement ended in July and was extended while this deal was negotiated, the city said.