KSQ Council won’t rush into library land deal

By Eliza Mohler, Staff Writer, The Times

Mayor Matthew Fetick gives an update on public safety during the July 17 Borough Council meeting.

KENNETT SQUARE – Kennett Library tried to play let’s make a deal at last Monday night’s Borough Council meeting, but they didn’t get the prize behind door number two….yet.

In order to build a new $10 million facility, library officials need the 22,000-square-foot piece of land known as the Weinstein lot, located on State Street off South Willow Street. Library board member Brenda Williams Mercomes asked the council to sell the lot to the library “for the lowest possible price.”

She then read a letter from library board President Tom Swett to the council: “A very affordable price will enable us to raise less money and get started building the new library sooner,” it read. “We are aware that in the past, the borough has offered both generous and supportive terms to other local organizations, and we hope that you will be both generous and supportive with the library.”

Council opted not to pursue immediate action in response to the request at the meeting because a formal appraisal on the Weinstein lot is due soon. Council member Wayne Braffman said it would be a good idea to wait and see what the value of the property is and go from there.

Vice President Geoff Bosley commented that there are also other factors involved in the sale.

“The value of the property is almost immaterial,” he said. “We want to partner with the library and get a deal that works for both of us.”

Bosley was acting as president for the meeting because President Danilo Maffei was away on business. Borough Manager Joe Scalise was also absent, and Secretary Karen Scherer sat in for him.

The library team cannot move forward with their plans to build a new facility until they have purchased the lot. They have requested that council give them an answer by July 31, so that settlement can take place by August 31.

“We remain totally committed to building a new library in the heart of Kennett Square, which will proudly welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors every year,” Swett’s letter read.

But reality and vision are two different things.

“We are at a dead stop right now, until we own the property,” said Jeff Yetter, Vice President of the library board. “We are reluctant to sign a million-dollar contract with the architect. Time is of the essence. We need to do a feasibility study which we can’t do until we have drawings of the property.”

Council members declined to be rushed into a deal, though.

“We don’t know the value of the land,” Braffman said. “What is fair? We could say fair is the appraised value, we could say fair would be to give it to them for $1, and we could say fair is to let us just cover our costs. I think it’s premature until we have numbers. I’m hoping we find a number that makes the library happy.”

The library was not the only group asking the council for land on Monday. Kennett Fire Co. No. 1, which uses the Red Clay Room and the parcel of land across the street from it for many special events, recently discovered it did not actually own the property on which hundreds of happy couples have posed for wedding photos for decades.

Kennett Fire Co. No, 1 Vice President Gina Puoci addresses Borough Council on July 17 during a discussion about land used by the Red Clay Room.

Company officials requested a transfer of the property in question to them from the borough after a land survey they had conducted revealed the truth.

“We had no idea we did not own that piece of property,” Gina Puoci, vice president of the company, said. “For 30 years, we have been taking care of that property and doing things on that property.”

Puoci noted that no one at the company or at borough hall knew that the property was borough-owned.

“We are asking the borough to give us the property we have maintained for all these years,” she said. “Even the existing gazebo is not on our property.”

After a brief discussion, the council approved the company’s request.

Council member Ethan Cramer announced before the end of the meeting that there will be a National Night Out event held in honor of late borough Police Chief Ed Zunino on Tuesday, August 1, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the 200 block of East Linden Street in Kennett Square.

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