The board approved a site evaluation process in the summer and later discussed behind closed doors the ranking of a dozen possible locations. Staff is now conducting detailed studies of an unknown number of shortlisted sites and will recommend in December a preferred location or locations for a stand-alone central branch and a potential OPL-Library and Archives Canada joint facility.
But that would provide “minimal opportunity for the public to weigh in” on the shortlisted sites before the final recommendation is made, says Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, so she asked the board to make the list public in November.
McKenney argued there’s no legal or procedural reason not to make the shortlist public, but Danielle McDonald, the library’s CEO, cautioned against the move, telling the board that releasing the shortlist “could affect the fairness” of the process currently underway.
McDonald added that the independent fairness commissioner overseeing the entire process, as well as the city’s legal department, cautioned against releasing the shortlist.
McKenney’s motion failed by a vote of 8-1, leaving the councillor disappointed.
“Residents of this city are paying for a new public library and they have every right to be involved in every step,” she said. “Any time the public doesn’t feel you’re being open and transparent and sharing information that, quite frankly, there’s no reason not to share, they become suspicious, or they are not happy with the process.”
Tim Tierney, who chairs the library board, confirmed a full report with recommendations will be released in December. And given the public interest in the project, the board won’t make its decision until its January meeting, he said.
“There will be a lot of information in there and if we were just to trot it out, especially with the holiday season, I don’t think it would get the attention that’s required,” Tierney said.
Earlier in the meeting, McKenney’s predecessor Diane Holmes chastised the board over the secrecy surrounding the site selection.
“Secrecy leads to suspicions, and I have lots of suspicions,” Holmes said, adding she suspects the new central library will be located at LeBreton Flats and that such a decision was made “months ago” to assist the redevelopment.
“I’m hoping that I’m wrong,” Holmes said. “I’m hoping that in December, you will come in with a site between Elgin and Bronson in the downtown that all the thousands of people who live in that area can walk to, and it will be exciting.”
Wherever it ultimately goes, the OPL wants to start building the new library in 2018 and have it open in 2020.
Source: Ottawa Citizen