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City, PPL settle dispute to save libraries

COURTESY PPL
THE CENTRAL LIBRARY in Providence, which will remain independent under terms of a just-announced agreement with the city.
Posted 12/22/11

PROVIDENCE - The city has agreed to pay $5 million for seven library buildings assessed at $11 million, Mayor Angel Taveras announced Thursday.

Providence libraries have not been owned or operated by the city, a situation unlike most cities, according to a news release put out by the mayor’s office.

Providence Public Library controlled all of the city’s library branches between 1878 and 2009, when funding difficulties prompted the organization to announce it planned to close five branches.

In response, local residents founded Providence Community Libraries and persuaded the city to transfer oversight of the nine branch libraries to the newly formed organization. Annual city funding for the libraries, which used to go to PPL and totaled $3.6 million this year, now goes to PCL. PPL still receives funding from the General Assembly, PBN reported in June.

According to Thursday's agreement, Providence Public Library will transfer seven buildings to the city as part of a 20-year lease-purchase, after which point the city will own them outright, the agreement outlined.

Two buildings - the Washington Park Library, which is already owned by the city, and the Fox Point Library, which is owned by Boys and Girls Clubs of Providence - were not included in the deal.

The city will make a $250,000 initial payment from funds held in escrow during the dispute between the city and PPL.

The city will then make 18 annual payments of $264,000, starting in 2014.

The seven libraries included in the agreement were: Rochambeau, Mount Pleasant, Knight Memorial, Olneyville, Smith Hill, South Providence, Wanskuck.

“Countless children and families rely on our library branches not only for books, but for Internet access, computer classes, ESL courses, and many other important services as well,” said Providence City Council Majority Leader Seth Yurdin. (The council was “closely involved” in the efforts.)

“It is in the best interest of everyone that these buildings are kept open and maintained properly so residents can continue to enjoy access to these services,” he said.

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