I have been watching with interest the debate on whether to move the Rutland Free Library from its current location to the College of St. Joseph campus. Those opposed to the move cite its current downtown location, the historic building, their emotional attachment. Those in favor of the move make the case that they will never be able to raise enough money to bring the existing building up to code; a 2013 review put the cost at $6 million to $11 million. There will never be adequate parking. There will always be a lack of internal visibility. There is no flexibility or room for change.
The debate reminds me a lot of the decision to move the Rutland Hospital from Nichols Street to Stratton Road in the 1950s. The hospital had originally opened in 1896 at the Nichols Street location. The hospital grew and changed over the next 60 years and by the 1950s, it became clear that the original buildings and site were inadequate. The buildings were old, originally designed for another purpose. The site was landlocked. There was inadequate parking.
Rutland leaders at the time decided to make a move and they purchased the Chaffee farm on Stratton Road. Many opposed the idea. They argued we should not abandon an historic building; one in which many of their family members had been born. They argued Nichols Street was a convenient downtown location. The new site was out with all the farms. It would be difficult to access.
In fact, the move was so unpopular that in 1956, Rutlanders voted three times not to make the necessary road, sewer and water improvements required for the new hospital.
Thankfully, a deal was finally struck and the new hospital opened in 1958.
The vision of those Rutlanders back in the 1950s made all the difference. It allowed for the development of a modern health care facility that continues to change to meet the needs of the Rutland community and provide up-to-date, high quality health care services.
The Rutland Free Library deserves the same: a modern facility with room to grow and evolve to meet the information and knowledge needs of Rutland. An opportunity like this is rare. We should have the vision to take advantage of this moment.
Thomas W. Huebner is retired RRMC CEO and lives in Rutland City.