Several years ago the Library Trustees identified deficiencies in the current Stowell building donated over 100 years ago. An Exploratory Committee was formed to evaluate the issues and create recommendations. During this time an offer was made by Colleen O’Neill to donate the vacant building formerly known as the Cornish General Store to be renovated and used as a new Library and Community Center. The Cornish Community Initiative supports this course of action and has offered to facilitate the property transfer as well as capital fundraising campaign and renovations. Warrant articles and agreements have been drafted to ensure there is no cost to the residents of Cornish for this process, and the CCI would gather the $2.5M+ required for the renovation and oversee that multi year process, at the conclusion of which the building is handed over to the town of Cornish. As of the March 2023 town meeting, Cornish voted to accept this project.
This page is designed as an information hub for the exploration and discussion of this plan and related impacts. Information will continue to reside here for historical reference as the project continues forward.
Following the successful town vote on the Warrant Article this year, fundraising and construction will commence as a multi year project.
A Building Committee will be formed that includes representatives from the Library Trustees, Cornish Community Initiative, at least one Cornish citizen with experience in construction trades, and the architect. Their scope will include refinement of the existing plan, solicitation and consideration of past and ongoing input from the community, and assurance of meeting all standards as specified in the warrant article. This Committee may be guided by a Clerk of the Works.
FAQ and Information
This section focuses on factual information about the proposed library project. These items should be clear of any bias or opinion to allow readers to formulate their own conclusions.
Remind me, why are we talking about a new library?
Almost two years ago, the Library Trustees inquired about the use of the General Store as a site for a new, renovated library and community center given its history as a gathering place at the town flat. Since then, the Town of Cornish Library Exploratory Committee has been investigating this proposal. Unlike the current library, the General Store building has plenty of parking, ample space for community activities, running water, and a commercial kitchen. All of these factors position the General Store to be an attractive site for a new library and community center.
What work has been done on the proposal so far?
Preliminary designs for the new building are available on the town website along with the report from the Library Exploratory Committee and cost estimates.
Is it really the time for this type of project?
Now more than ever, libraries are proving to be an invaluable community resource. This proposal for the Cornish Library and Community Center represents an excellent opportunity for the town as the donated building can continue to be used for the community activities that already take place at the General Store while also adding a library resource that is accessible and available for all residents.
What are the next steps for this project?
Now that the Library Exploratory Committee has finalized its report, the proposal will move to a town vote on March 18th. If this project is endorsed by the community, the CCI will commence a capital campaign for building renovations. The multi year renovation project will be overseen by the CCI in conjunction with the Library Trustees. At the completion of the renovations the building will be donated to the town of Cornish.
What is the New Library Coalition?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines coalition as “a temporary alliance of distinct parties, persons, or states for joint action.” The New Library Coalition (NLC), was the name chosen by a group that supports the library move to the former general store building after it has been renovated as the new library. Members of the NLC include members of the Cornish Community Initiative (CCI) (https://cornishci.org/), members of the Friends of the Library, and a liaison from the Library Trustees. The NLC is working to educate Cornish citizens about the new library project so that they will have an informed vote at the town meeting on March 18.
The NLC mailings are funded by a donation made to the Library Trustees specifically for that purpose.
Why was a Petitioned Warrant Article presented to the Cornish Selectboard for inclusion on the 2023 Town Warrant?
An earlier draft of a proposed warrant article was presented to the Cornish Library Exploratory Committee on 23 January 2022. That sample warrant is included as Appendix #3 in the LEC’s Final Report. This draft asked voters “to authorize the Selectmen, on behalf of the Town, to enter into a binding agreement with the Cornish Community Initiative (“CCI”) to accept as a gift under RSA 31:19 the future donation by CCI to the Town of Cornish certain real property located at 226 Route 120 in the Cornish Flat…”
The petitioned warrant article, however, puts the matter squarely before the voters to decide whether this proposed project should be accepted by the Town. Cornish Community Initiatives’ attorneys researched the law and concluded that a “standalone” warrant article, one that asks the voters to determine directly that the Town shall accept a gift of the library, upon satisfaction of certain conditions that protect the Town, is perfectly proper under New Hampshire law.
The CCI and the Library Trustees want to ensure that Cornish voters have the opportunity to decide whether this proposed project should be accepted by the Town. It made sense, therefore, to put the question directly to the voters, while providing that any critical decisions by the Library Trustees concerning construction of the building will be made in consultation with the Select board.
The petitioned warrant article was written by the lawyer for the CCI and the lawyer for the Trustees, with input from the NLC. The lawyer for the trustees is the former Town Counsel.
Copies of the Voter Petitioned Article are available at the Cornish Library during regular business hours.
Cornish Library Facts: Parking
From: Laura Cousineau, George H. Stowell Free Library trustee
It is a fact that parking at the Stowell Library is a problem acknowledged in the George H. Stowell Free Library Building Assessment Report. The Library Exploratory Committee commissioned Tom Ladd, MLS, an ADA consultant recommended by the NH State Library, to write this report. It can be found on the Town website as an appendix to the committee’s final report. As regards parking, Mr. Ladd writes:
Another major shortcoming is the lack of parking – not just handicapped accessible parking, but any parking completely off the street.
The reports conclude with Mr. Ladd stating:
I see no means of making the current building properly accessible & safe without a major addition and proper parking.
Currently, there are no marked or paved parking spaces for the library, and parking is extremely difficult in the winter with snow on the sides of the roads. There is no lighting.
The MA+KE phase one comparison plan for the Stowell Library shows three parallel parking places in front of what is now the historical society and the library, including one that is ADA compliant. It also calls for exerting the town’s right of way to pave four additional parallel parking spaces across the street from the library.
The Banwell phase one plan for the renovation of the store as a library provides a minimum of 14 parking spaces in front plus two ADA-compliant parking places on the side near the entrance to the community room. The spaces would be lit with downward-facing lighting so as not to disturb neighboring homes in the Cornish Flat.
As a reminder, all renovations, including parking for the new library, would be paid for by the non-profit CCI at no cost to the town. In contrast, all renovations including paving for parking would be the responsibility of the town to finance.
Cornish Library Facts: Library use is increasing
From: Laura Cousineau, George H. Stowell Free Library trustee
It is a fact that libraries collect and use statistics. They track the number of items checked out from the Library’s collection, the number of items borrowed from and loaned to other libraries, the number of patrons who visit the library, and the number of participants in library programs.
The statistics for our Cornish library increased dramatically during 2022. In fact, participation in library programming increased tenfold during the last year. Sadly, almost all of that programming was held offsite due to accessibility limitations, space limitations, and lack of running water and safe bathrooms at the Stowell building.
Cornish Library Facts: Operating Costs
From: Laura Cousineau, George H. Stowell Free Library trustee
The 2022 actual expenditure total for the George H. Stowell Free Library was $37,559.90. Like most service organizations, a library’s personnel or salary costs account for a large chunk of the budget. $23,357 went to salaries, which is 62% of the budget. Energy cost, listed as electricity and heat in the budget report, was $4,295.66, making it the second largest percent of the budget. A close third is for library materials (books) at $4,030.70. The remaining costs are for supplies, postage, telephone, training, and technology. Let’s look at the two biggest costs.
Currently, the library is open for 15 hours per week. Although it is difficult to do so given the lack of a functioning bathroom, current demand for services dictate that we need to increase those hours. The Trustees project that the hours will grow over the next few years. The 2023 budget has one additional hour per week of salary. Of course, the town has the ultimate say in this matter, as the library budget is approved each year at the town meeting.
What happens to library hours if we move to a new, larger library? The warrant stipulates that the library must be open at least 15 hours – the current amount. But by the time the new library is open, 4 to 6 years will have passed. During that time, as stated above, the library hours will likely already have expanded to 20, assuming that the town approves. What happens if a few years after that, the new library is a big success, and people want it to be open more than 20 hours? In that case, the trustees would request additional funds in their budget at town meeting, and again, the town would either approve it or deny it. Of course, the same is true for a renovated Stowell library: the need drives the budget request, and the budget request is either approved or denied at the town meeting.
The second largest part of the budget is for energy costs. The new library will be energy efficient, with heat pumps for cooling and heating, and ready for solar. Solar is not an option at the Stowell Library.
Have any questions about the library budgets or operating costs? Please contact your trustees.
Factual Facts and Nothing but the Facts
From: Kathi Patterson
It is a fact that in 1911, George H. Stowell promised to build and furnish a library for the Town on the condition that they would furnish the land and promise to fund its annual expenses.
It is a fact that in 2021, Colleen O’Neill offered to donate the Cornish Store property for use as a library for the Town with the condition that the Town promise to fund its annual expenses.
It is a fact that there was a cost to the taxpayers in 1911 to acquire their library because they had to buy the land.
It is a fact that there will be no cost to the taxpayers in 2023 to acquire the proposed library because the donor has offered the real estate currently valued at $385,700.
It is a fact that Mr. Stowell used his own money. The end result was a new library.
It is a fact that the new non-profit, Cornish Community Initiative, will conduct a capital campaign to fund the library renovation project. The end result will be a new library for Cornish.
It is a fact that Mr. Stowell’s 1912 library does not have accessibility for everyone, does not offer ample parking, does not have room for expanded collections, does not have running water, does not have a proper bathroom, and does not have room for programming for adults and children.
It is a fact that the proposed library will have accessibility for everyone, will offer ample parking, will have room for expanded collections, will have running water, will have bathrooms, and will provide room for programming for adults and children.
It is a fact that this generous donation of a new library is an opportunity for the community to work together to create a place where we can not only take out library materials such as books and audio books and videos and telescopes and metal detectors but also create a place where we can meet and learn and have fun together.
Cornish Library Facts: The Library’s Mission
From: Laura Cousineau, George H. Stowell Free Library trustee
The George H. Stowell Free Library (the “Library”) will perpetuate George H. Stowell’s interest in the intellectual welfare of the town and its people. The Library is committed to providing resources adequate to serve the varied needs of the patrons of Cornish and to providing equal opportunity for everyone to access, share, and create information.
It is a fact that Cornish citizens have many needs, wishes, and ideas for what they want from their library. Like other libraries across our state and country, most go beyond the time-honored and still-relevant role of providing reading materials. The Library Trustees have made note of these ideas, many of which have come from forums and meetings, Here are just a few ideas we’ve heard recently:
- a place for seniors to meet
- a place for our teens to safely gather
- a place where local farmers could stage a mini farmers market or CSA pick-up
- a place where electric vehicles could be charged
- an emergency cooling place for very hot summer days
- a place that lends tools and other non-book items (“library of things”)
- a quiet space with strong internet for those who work remotely
What could our library do for you? The trustees are listening and will implement ideas in line with our mission as budget and personnel time allow.
Cornish Library Facts: Timeline of Stowell Library Improvements Discussions
Information compiled from Select Board and Cornish Library Trustee minutes by Kathi Patterson, Trustee.
Sewer and Water
In April 1973, the trustees met with the Select Board to discuss the lack of facilities at the Stowell Library. Subsequent meetings were held in the Spring of 1975 regarding water and septic. Water Pollution Control Commission in Concord was contacted, but in July, they report that holding tanks cannot be installed in NH. A further report states that the library can’t have a well and regular sewage system because of the storm drains and any construction has to be 35′ away. In 1977, the trustees contact Steve Tracy about the feasibility of a water/septic system for the library.
In 1996, the trustees consider a proposal for an access ramp for the library. In March 2000, The Selectmen establish a Library Capital Reserve Fund. Library Trustees handle these funds but need a warrant-article approval to spend them. Making the Library handicap accessible was discussed as a possible future use of these funds but not as a directive to use them for this purpose. In September 2000, the trustees invite Judy Hayward, Executive Director of Historic Windsor, to tour the building and give her recommendations regarding accessibility. She reported that making the building wheelchair accessible may be an undue financial burden for the Town, and, even if financially feasible, may destroy the building’s historic character.
Maintenance and Repairs
In 2009, 2014, and 2017, the trustees ask for funds from the Capital Reserve account: (2009) painting the library trim, repairing the cement steps, replacing the cellar windows, and slate roof repair; (2014) repointing brick walls, replacing cracked chimney cap, and slate roof repair including replacing a copper valley; and, (2017) ceiling repair, LED lighting, electrical upgrades, and rebuilding of the back entrance.
Architect Study for Needed Improvement
The 2018 Library Forum stressed the need for water, bathrooms, and accessibility. Deciding to work with the next-door Historical Society, they schedule a joint meeting with the Cornish Selectboard to discuss accessibility, a bathroom, and meeting space. In that meeting, a plan for one or more warrant articles at Town Meeting was made and an architect was chosen. In September 2019, at a public meeting at the Cornish Town Office building, UK Architects (now MA+KE) presented two options plans for providing an accessible entrance to the Cornish Library and the CHS. Option A was for an exterior ramp, small lobby, a restroom, a meeting room, and an interior ramp to make the transition. Option B was for an exterior ramp and a covered walkway connector between the buildings. Options were discussed, and in October 2019, the trustees discussed concerns and decided to:
- find answers to the water/sewer question before making any further plans
- have the entrance walk come straight in from the street
- have space for a bathroom even if it is just a composting toilet
Cornish Library Facts: Library Programs
From Laura K. Cousineau, MLS, George H. Stowell Free Library Trustee
Did you watch WMUR’s New Hampshire Chronicle last Wednesday? Take a look here:
Isn’t it wonderful what is going on in libraries around our state?!
Our Cornish library has been engaging the adults and the children of our community with new programs as well. If you subscribe to the newsletter, you know that each month is packed with activities for both adults and children. For this month, March, we have two craft activities – one for adults and one for children, two different book club meetings, a Lego activity with children, a tech class on understanding “the Cloud,” and a Thursday morning “Tea & Treats” time.
All of the activities have been well attended. Although a few are held in the Stowell building, most are held at the general store. The Stowell building space and parking are too limited for some of the activities. The lack of running water and functioning bathrooms makes it impractical to hold craft programs there. The library appreciates Colleen O’Neill’s generosity in making meeting space available in her building, as she does for the library as well as for many other Cornish groups.
This month’s library newsletter is available here: https://mailchi.mp/af7adf298993/march-library-happenings?e=59d3eb3cc2
Be sure to keep up with events at the library by subscribing. Use the sign-up form here: https://comcast.us17.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=550a2f4f3d89b9cd48fc479fb&id=c81e576e84
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This section contains individual statements and analysis. While they may contain salient facts, they also contain opinions and feelings that may draw conclusions without allowing the reader to necessarily formulate their own. However, such opinions can be important to recognize in the context of a topic that pulls at the history of the Cornish community while proposing possible choices for the future.
Save Our Library
Testimony By George Edson
It has been suggested by some that we “save our store” when we really don’t have a store in
Cornish Flat to save. Except for a short time, there has been no store in Cornish Flat for
over ten years. I was a business broker for 17 years, dealing exclusively in the sale of small-
town convenience stores. I sold over 150 of them. My business was very strong in the 80’s
when such small-town stores were thriving. After the economic downturn of 1990, the
picture changed as the viability of the business model changed, and most of the small stores
could no longer survive. I could provide a long list of towns that no longer have a food store.
Now 20 years later the picture is even more drastic where very few towns still have the
convenience of a small-town store. We are very lucky to have the the 12% Solution, the
Meriden Store and Plainfield store so close. There is certainly no way that a fourth store
could survive in this small radius.
I suggest that the best way to “Save our Library” is to relocate it to the former Cornish Store
building which has so much to offer. It will provide more space, easy handicap access,
adequate parking, open grass area for local event use, a children’s area way better than
currently available, public meeting space with after-hours access, and kitchen facilities to add
to the usefulness of the entire building.
Some years ago, I was considering the purchase of D’Amantes Store in Claremont. Many of
you remember the business. During the time I was contemplating the purchase, I drove by
one day, and the thought occurred to me that I had the opportunity to make an important life
decision, and if I decided against it, I didn’t want to drive by it for the next 40 years thinking of
the opportunity that I passed up. I think this is the same situation. If we pass this up we will
live to regret it.
I was at the meeting when the Meeting House was offered to the town. There were many
people against the opportunity. They suggested that we didn’t need another building to
maintain. I ask you, was that a good decision? Are we not in the same position today with
the opportunity to add to what Cornish offers its citizens? Aren’t we better off to control how
the very visible Cornish Store property is used, and how it is developed?
My last point is the social dynamic that the project will offer. I have lived in Cornish for 54
years. I drove past that store a lot of times. When I saw Harold Morse’s truck parked in front
of the store, I slammed my brakes on, went in the store to sit with Harold, have a cup of
coffee, and chew the fat. I look forward to having the opportunity again to use the building as
a social meeting place.
I urge you all to consider the facts and support the transition of the current library to the
former Cornish Store building.
Exploratory Committee Minority Reports
The Library Exploratory Committee had three members vote “nay” on the proposal for the new building. One of these committee members is a member of the Cornish selectboard.