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Joyce Endee

Ground ceremonially broken for Whitefield Library project



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USDA Rural Development State Director for New Hampshire and Vermont Molly Lambert, center in silver hardhat, wielded a shovel on Tuesday morning, April 26, at a ceremonial groundbreaking for the expansion and renovation project at the Whitefield Public Library. Ed Betz, left, who pushed the effort along stands grinning happily next to select board chairman Wendy Hersom. Librarian Sandy Holz, right, holds a shovel, along with longtime library trustee Eileen Alexander. The two women flank Rick Vashaw, chairman of the library board of trustees. Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
May 04, 2011
WHITEFIELD — A light drizzle didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the 35 people who came to the 11 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday that was held behind the classic brick 1903-designed Carnegie Library on Lancaster Street. The expansion and renovation project, including making the building handicapped accessible, is scheduled for completion in early September.

"It's an exciting day," said town librarian Sandy Holz enthusiastically. "We've been saying, 'Wouldn't it be nice to do something like this,' for about 25 years."

She and longtime trustee Eileen Alexander thanked USDA Rural Development, pointing out that without federal financial assistance the project would not have gone forward. USDA Rural Development granted the town $170,000 and also loaned it another $80,000, that town meeting voted to pay back over 10 years. The $250,000 total flowed through USDA Rural Development under the President Barack Obama's American and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) initiative.

Once the ball got rolling — after engineer and coordinator par excellence Ed Betz gave it a good push — the selectmen, town Building Committee, Lions Club, new Friends of the Library group, quilters, plus the Whitefield Economic Development Corp., along with many others pulled together to make the project a reality. Former selectman Joe Elgosin was praised for never missing a trustees' planning meeting, and Black River Design architects of Montpelier, Vt., was credited with being a pleasure to work with.

The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation donated $50,000 that allowed serious planning to begin.

Several years ago a family donated $50,000 anonymously, and the trustees added book sale monies and other donations to grow the fund into an even more substantial sum, used to provide matching dollars.

It was the Whitefield Women's Study Club whose members over a century ago went after the $7,500 gift from Andrew Carnegie and pledged their continued support, Holz and Alexander noted, giving a glance toward the heavens.

Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director for New Hampshire and Vermont, exclaimed that it was a privilege to be present at such a collaborative and inspirational event. The federal agency's efforts are designed to increase economic opportunity and the quality of life in rural America, she said. President Obama supports education and innovation as routes by which "to win the future," Lambert pointed out.

Representatives for both Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Senator Kelly Ayotte read letters commending the community for its forward-looking action.

Mike Welch of Marblehead, Mass., was on hand, representing the low-bid contractor, James J. Welch & Co. of Salem, Mass. Although the six-generation construction company is located on the Bay State's North Shore, it does a lot of work in New Hampshire. They have done work at The Morrison in Whitefield and are slated to do more, and were also responsible for renovating Shaw's supermarket in Littleton.

Project superintendent John Gasper of Peterborough was on hand, as were both clerks of the works: Ed Betz and Bill Robinson.

Looking to the future, the trustees very much hope that one or more philanthropically minded library patrons might step forward to donate new wooden bookcases for the library's new stack room, or the money to have someone build them specifically for the space. "We can reuse the old metal ones," Alexander explained, "but they really don't fit the library's needs anymore, because their dimensions are not right — and they're very unattractive."

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