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CCAH/DI snag old library

Locations: News Published

John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

Despite apparent misgivings on the part of some members, the Board of Trustees on Tuesday gave its nod to the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities (CCAH) and its partner, Dance Initiative (DI), to take over the recently vacated Gordon Cooper Library building.

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The vote to accept the CCAH/DI proposal for gallery space and dance studios came down to 5-1 (Trustee A.J. Hobbs recused himself because he was involved in one of the proposals). The sole dissenting vote came from Trustee Frosty Merriott, who felt the entire selection process was mishandled.

“Good for us,” he told his fellow trustees in sarcastic tones, “we managed to divide the community twice” and forced “important constituencies” to compete for the right to move into the town-owned building.

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Merriott was lumping together the current process and one conducted last year, in which the winning proposal was for a museum to house the artworks of renowned sculptor and Carbondale area resident James Surls. The organizers of the Surls proposal ultimately backed out of the deal.

Merriott and others said that, this time around, the town itself should have come up with a proposed use of the building, then invited proposals from anyone interested in working with the town’s plans.

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Others on the board disagreed, however.

Trustee Allyn Harvey, who voted in favor of the CCAH/DI partnership, pointed out that the current process has yielded good ideas and engendered a broad public debate about the use of the publicly-owned former library space.

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“I like this process,” he said, adding, “I think it’s hard and unsettling,” but it seemed to work well for Carbondale.

This was the third time the trustees had met over the current crop of proposals from four different groups — the CCAH/DI partnership; the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce; a plan by Hobbs and a partner, Trevor Brown, to turn the building into a nontraditional cafe and gathering space; and a proposal by Carbondale resident Jim Breasted to use the building as a low-cost hostel for visitors, transient employees and others priced out of the valley’s traditional hotels and real estate.

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Several trustees spoke up in favor of a broader collaboration, one that could include the chamber as well as CCAH and Dance Initiative, but the proponents themselves responded that there is not enough square footage in the building to effectively accommodate all three organizations.

A last-minute flurry of letters from the public gave overwhelming support for either the CCAH/DI proposal or the application from the Chamber. None of the letters included in the trustee packet on Tuesday voiced support for either the cafe proposal or the hostel idea.

But several of the trustees, after voting to select the CCAH/DI proposal, urged the chamber, along with Breasted and the cafe proponents, to keep working on their plans.

“I think it behooves us to look at what the chamber’s needs are,” said the mayor. “We’re all aware of where our funding comes from (sales tax revenues are the town’s major source of income). I think acknowledgment of that importance is key.”

“I’d love to see the cafe and the hostel end up in the Six89 building (a former restaurant at the corner of Seventh and Main streets), but I don’t own it,” Harvey said suggestively at one point.

Based on a motion by Harvey, the town’s staff will begin working on a lease agreement with the CCAH/DI organizers.

Harvey’s motion was seconded by Trustee Katrina Byars, who urged the cafe and hostel proponents to keep moving forward and to count on the town’s help in doing so.

“We’re here for you,” she said, “even though things went this way.”

In other action the trustees:

• Approved the purchase, for $11,500, of an artwork titled “Levee Break” that has sat near the corner of 4th and Main streets, as part of the town’s Carbondale Public Arts Commission placement of art in public places.

• Accepted a salary survey, conducted by the Mountain States Employers Council, which showed that the town needs to raise salaries of some employees, for a total cost of nearly $26,000, in order to bring the town up to salary standards found in other towns around the region.

• Approved a request from the owners of the Black Nugget saloon to close a portion of North Fourth Street for street fairs on three weekends this summer — June 28, July 19 and Aug. 23. The street is to be closed from the intersection with Main Street to the alleyway adjacent to Steve’s Guitars, from 2-8 p.m., on each of the three days. No alcohol is to be served in the outside areas.

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