Viewpoint - June 3, 2009

Editorial: Hands off Atherton library funds

The current plan by Atherton City Council member Charles Marsala to take millions of dollars from the town's dedicated library fund should be scrapped before any more time is wasted.

We can understand that Mr. Marsala and his colleagues on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for a new town center are desperately looking for ways to finance a new Town Hall to replace the totally inadequate and decrepit quarters now used by town staff. At the police department, for example, female officers do not even have their own locker room. It is a disgrace in a town that takes pride in its estate-sized properties and spends most of its budget on police services.

We seriously doubt that the elaborate shell game put together by Mr. Marsala and his colleagues to "sell" the old council chambers to the library by taking the fair market value from the $4 million-plus in the library's Donor City Fund would be accepted by the community. Instead, there should be an open discussion among the council, the library joint powers board members and the community to see if some library funds could be used to start a town center project that includes a new library.

But if library supporters cannot be persuaded to get on board, the Blue Ribbon Task Force should switch gears and focus on taking funding for a sensible project to the voters in a few years, without using library funds. The intervening time could be used to drum up support for the plan, hopefully from a few lead donors who could give the project some much-needed respect.

Taking the library money without approval of library supporters would launch any town center project on a sour note, rather than build the momentum needed to sell a new town hall to the community. Given the considerable wealth of its 2,000-plus households, Atherton residents would surely be willing to back a bond issue or donate their own funds for a well-designed town hall project.

Joan Sanders, president of the Friends of the Atherton Community Library, is livid about Mr. Marsala's idea, and put it this way in a May 23 resignation letter to the Blue Ribbon Task Force:

"In view of this latest assault on the library funds, it is inconceivable for me to remain on the Blue Ribbon Task Force. My remaining on the Task Force may seem to lend an acceptance of the BRTF to use of our library funds for purposes other than for library needs. Mr. Marsala has tried to 'sell' the library a building we do not want, build an auditorium unsuitable for our needs, give us an 'exclusive right' to a building we don't want, all calling for a use of a validated portion of our library funds."

She goes on to say, "The library should be able to use every dollar of its funds to develop a vibrant, useful, up-to-code, and seismically stable space with an upgraded interior, increased computer capacity, and a distinguished collection for use by all Atherton residents, young and old."

If Mr. Marsala sincerely wants to bring a new town hall project to Atherton, he should persuade fellow council members to put the issue before the voters. Anyone who doubts that a small town can design and build a first-class town center need only look a few miles west to Portola Valley's new $18 million town center, built almost entirely with funds donated by town residents. It is a state-of-the-art green building, and it includes a new library.


Posted by ridiculous, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 3, 2009 at 3:54 pm

The police dept is a waste of tax payer dollars. To write this misinformed letter is so typical. Yes, the females DO have a locker room. It is a restroom that was modified many years ago to include locker space. No more money...not one penny more should be spent on the overpaid police department employees. There are several lawsuits pending and more to come in the near future. The town residents need to stand up and say,"Enough is enough". Bring in the Sheriff for services. It would be the financially responsible thing to do!

Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 3, 2009 at 9:50 pm

That's crazy talk. Chief Glenn Nielsen and City Manager Jerome Gruber are the best chief and manager we've had in the past 25 years. Gruber came on board in early 2008, and Nielsen in late summer 2008, and they have only been, what, three or four police-related lawsuits since then? That's pretty good. We need the Atherton police, no question about it. How else could people get their mail collected during vacations, the post office?? Geez.

Posted by laughing, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Considering atherton police only has a handful of employees...10 sworn officers...there should be zero lawsuits pending...what a joke

Posted by Joe Friday, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 5, 2009 at 1:45 pm

There are 20 sworn officers in the Atherton PD.

Posted by Frank Serpico, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm

According to Web Link, there are 16 officers (not including Pilar Buckley, on leave, and the dispatchers).

Posted by disgusted, a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2009 at 3:06 pm

After taking a brief tour of Atherton PD, funding is needed desperately to fix that place. There is a small inadequate ladies restroom/locker room (no nursing facility). But the men are all subject to sexual harassment and told to dress in the men's one toilet bathroom w/no shower, because their squad/break/locker room/briefing-table is all in the same room. By the way "they are being watched on a new surveillance video camera in that room too", and "Nothing like the chiefs secretary to walk through and take notice of men getting ready to serve our community and then complain about it". Cords are thrown hap-hazardously around the building and hanging from the 911 phone, I really don't know how it ever passes a fire inspection.

The officers on the other hand are hard working given the jurisdiction and BIG Brother mentality that is taking place. The police officers do their best given the direction their under, and pressure to do the job under one set of rules! It's a tough biz..and political. The least we can do is support the police that are trying to make a difference, as well as give them a nice place to work! People forget that they are human to, but always held to a higher standard. Maybe the chiefs secretary has too much time on her hands and should start helping out by cleaning up the place inside--

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