LETTER: Council Candidate’s Ideas for Unused Branch Libraries

Print More

Michael Dattoli

The former North Branch Library has sat unused since it closed.

The former North Branch Library has sat unused since it closed.

Michael Dattoli

The former North Branch Library has sat unused since it closed.

Watertown’s two branch libraries have been vacant since closing in 2006.  During the past decade, two separate re-use committees have struggled to find appropriate utilization for the decaying buildings. Any re-use of either branch library will require heavy reconstruction, and costs for proposed uses by outside groups have been estimated to exceed the return on investment. Some have indicated that selling one or both of these buildings is the only solution, while others point to the former Parker School as a reason to maintain ownership.

Along with the former Police Station building, I believe that Watertown has the potential for an innovative approach to managing and revitalizing these vacant sites, which takes into account other challenges our local economy is already confronted with. For example, re-use should address job creation, the rise in out-of-district educational costs, and attempt to make health care costs more affordable. As a Town Councilor, I will work with the Council, School Committee, Library Trustees, Superintendent of Schools, town administration, residents, business leaders, area colleges, and State agencies on a re-use plan that addresses these issues.

One solution might be to bring technical training and career readiness programs to enrich the quality of education provided in Watertown Public Schools. There are federal and State grants available to municipalities for redevelopment and innovation, local organizations to collaborate with, and demand for career training programs are increasing as more students opt to learn new skills and trades in high-paying biotechnical industries. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the medical device repair and refurbishing industry will grow 30% throughout the next decade. Refurbished medical equipment is in high demand with hospitals and surgical units, as they contribute to lower operating costs, which in turn reduces the amount billed to consumers. These types of growing industries depend on qualified training programs to prepare skilled technicians, and Watertown is in a position to provide these types of services to our students.

Currently, Watertown Public Schools spends nearly $1.5M annually for out of district tuition placements to Minuteman High School in Lexington for technical education that leads to industry certifications. Are there ways to bring some of these students back into the district by providing options for students that seek technical training for education and may opt for careers alternative, growing fields?

I wholeheartedly welcome your ideas on innovative and progressive models the town can explore to retain our vacant buildings, such as the branch libraries, in a way that is sustainable and beneficial to our entire community. Please contact me at 617-999-5333 or michaeldattoli@gmail.com with thoughts or suggestions. Consider re-use plans that reduce costs, perhaps for education expenditures, addresses rising health care costs, and creates a pipeline for STEAM [Ed. Note: STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics] jobs of the future.


Michael Dattoli
Carroll Street
Candidate for At-Large Town Councilor

2 thoughts on “LETTER: Council Candidate’s Ideas for Unused Branch Libraries

  1. How refreshing to hear some innovative thoughts about how to maintain our branch libraries! And how refreshing to have someone request input from citizens. It’s time to think outside the box to find ways to address the neglect of properties owned by the taxpayers of Watertown. I would love to see these public buildings
    repurposed for community uses.

    Thank you, Mike, for being civic-minded, and for running for office to serve our town.

  2. Hi Rena,
    Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and, more importantly, to comment on my thoughts in regard to re-use of library buildings. Since this article was posted, I have received a good amount of emails, text messages, and phone calls about these sites and thoughts about re-use plans. I really feel that there are ways to, as you say, think outside of the box on revitalization of these buildings and who better than help guide that process than residents and local organizations. There are many options for funding streams available, such as grants, businesses, fundraising, and local capital improvement funds. These buildings are small, yet valuable and could prove to be a key component of our future growth.
    Thanks again for your note and involvement, Rena!
    Michael Dattoli

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *