By Barbara Wood
Special to the Almanac
A topic that's typically as traditional as the flag and apple pie has split the town of Atherton and its City Council a new library.
On Wednesday night, in a meeting that didn't end until early Thursday morning, Atherton's council members voted 3 to 2 to choose town-owned Holbrook-Palmer Park as the "preferred site" for a new library.
Mayor James Dobbie, Vice Mayor Bill Widmer, and council member Kathy McKeithen, who was on the task force that recommended the park site for the library, voted for the park site. Council members Elizabeth Lewis and Jerry Carlson voted against it.
The meeting was standing room only, with the council chambers packed with as many chairs as it could hold, and other rooms in the building also filled with those too late to grab a chair.
Before voting for the park as the probable site for the new library, and perhaps indicating the depth of confusion and split opinions this issue has caused, the council took another action that had been requested by those who want the town to gather more information before deciding on a library site.
The council members voted unanimously to schedule a special meeting, within the next two weeks, to discuss a master plan for all town-owned buildings and facilities.
A special meeting for the master plan had been requested by former Atherton Mayor Didi Fisher, who presented the council with a petition asking for the meeting signed by more than 300 residents.
Weddings in the park?
The council put off another decision that has been part of the library location debate -- whether to continue events, especially weddings, in the park. In April the town stopped taking bookings for events in the park for 2012, since there are plans to build the new library there and the town had been losing money by staging events.
City Manager John Danielson asked the council to reconsider the matter since it appears that any library construction would not start in 2012, and the town has adopted a new way of staffing events that should cut the town's losses.
"I'm not comfortable stopping future weddings unless it's a policy decision by the council," Mr. Danielson said. He said the town has received daily calls from people trying to book weddings in 2012.
But council members said they do not have enough financial information to know if the town really will make a profit by staging events, information they need to make a decision. The council put off the matter until its November meeting.