Review concludes Tesson Ferry Library move done with full input from public

County review finds no fault on part of any library officials

By Gloria Lloyd

A county review of the Tesson Ferry Branch Library move concluded St. Louis County Library officials made a cost-saving decision to move the library with full input from the public, and that any residents who have criticized the decision based their opinions on flawed information.

“It is difficult to ask the county executive to act on behalf of a public who is intentionally or accidentally misinformed,” according to the review, commissioned by County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Patrons and local elected officials, including a state legislator, have criticized the way the library handled the Tesson Ferry move, contending the library did not include residents in the process of moving the library from its longtime location in Green Park to its new $16 million building at the Gravois and Musick intersection across from Grant’s Farm in Affton, which is set to open in the fall of 2015 as part of the library’s 10-year, $108 million Proposition L master plan approved by voters in 2012.

Instead of finding any fault for how the move was handled by the library’s Board of Trustees or administrators, however, Dooley’s 12-page review placed blame for any doubts local residents have about the library’s move at the feet of Green Park and Mehlville Fire Protection District officials, who “misrepresented the facts and failed to recognize the cost savings of the project.”

The county executive’s library review was written by his special assistant, Jonathan Boesch, who also serves as south county liaison.

“There is nothing in the volumes of public records which suggest the library was acting outside acceptable parameters of a public board,” Boesch concluded. “As documented above, all plans for improvements in the library district were presented and recorded in open board meetings with the library district.”

In Boesch’s conclusion, he wrote that local officials should have approached the library board earlier than they did.

Although the Green Park Board of Aldermen adopted a resolution last October to ask the library board to work with them to find a new site in Green Park, Boesch described that effort as too little, too late.

“Leaders of Green Park and Mehlville Fire Protection District failed to engage the board in a timely manner or ask pertinent questions about what the replacement of the facility could mean to their city,” he wrote.

Local officials said last year they were just as taken by surprise by the library’s selection of a new site as residents were, and that their offers to talk with the library board after that fell on deaf ears.

In the last paragraph of Dooley’s review, Boesch suggested that Green Park residents could view the library move as an opportunity, since a new commercial business might come to their city at the busy corner of Tesson Ferry and Lindbergh Boulevard once the library is moved. He also noted that Green Park officials had not offered the library any financial incentives when they offered to help find a site last October.

Library Executive Director Kristen Sorth and Library Communications Manager Jennifer McBride did not respond to the Call’s requests for comment on the review.