If nothing else, the debate over the location of an East Dallas library showed how strongly people feel about libraries.

In 1978, the voters approved bond funds for the acquisition of property to build a library in East Dallas. At that time, the clear intention of the City was that the library would be built south of Northwest Highway between Central Expressway and White Rock Lake.

In 1982, voters approached bonds for the construction of the library. At that time, it was the recommendation of the staff that the library be located at the corner of Skillman and Southwestern, and in fact, the property was purchased that year.

During the 1982 bond election, the library was referred to as the Skillman-Southwestern library. The legal documents of 1982, however, did show that the service area for this library would include neighborhoods north of Northwest Highway as well.

For decades, East Dallasites have be-moaned the fact that the area south of Northwest Highway and north of Mockingbird between Central Expressway and White Rock Lake is the largest area in our City not served by a branch library.

Even after the bonds were approved in both the 1978 and 1982 elections, the frustration level only mounted as the City’s economic woes necessitated delaying construction for more than a decade.

At every budget town hall meeting that I have had, as a member of the Council, I have invariably been asked the question of when would the library be built. I have always said: “Be patient, we are going through some tough economic times, but I promise you, the library will be built.”

Finally, the library was included in this year’s 1993-94 capital budget. However, at the same time, there was an effort, by residents of the Vickery Meadow neighborhood (a community north of Northwest Highway) to move the library from the Skillman/Southwestern location to a location further north, such as Fair Oaks Park.

Initially, I consented to some meetings concerning the issue of the library. Residents of the Vickery Meadow area met with our staff to see if a consensus could be reached regarding the proposed library’s location.

After several months, it became clear that no such consensus was possible. In fact, there was an overwhelming desire by residents living south of Northwest Highway to keep the library where it was planned, especially since the City already owns the land at Skillman and Southwestern, and no specific sites had even been designated north of Northwest Highway. Changing the library’s location would delay its construction several more years.

But there was a political power-play underway to take the library from this under-served area and build it in an area already served by two branch libraries. At that point, the gloves came off, and a real political donnybrook ensued.

This is one East Dallas issue upon which all East Dallas council representatives were in complete agreement. I immediately solicited the support of Councilmen Luna and McDaniel in the fight, and they committed to help me from the beginning.

The arguments made in support of moving to the library consisted of the noble desire to do something for the Vickery Meadow neighborhood. However, the area north of Northwest Highway and east of Central Expressway is already served by two branch libraries, one at Forest-Green and the other on Audelia Road. To locate a library in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood would have violated the City’s own criteria for locating libraries not more than three miles from an existing library.

Had the Council agreed to move the library north, some residents would be within three miles of three branch libraries, and some of us living south of Northwest Highway would not have been within three miles of a single branch library.

The bottom line for me was that the City had made a commitment. The voters of East Dallas had relied on the commitment and had voted to approve bonds. They also have been extremely patient in waiting for construction to get started.

To take the library away at this point, without so much as giving a wink or a nod to building a consensus within the area, to me was completely unacceptable.

Fortunately, by a 9-6 vote, the council killed a motion by Councilman Blumer to delay this matter for a fourth time. The council then voted 10-5 to approve the zoning on the property at Southwestern and Skillman and move forward with construction.

I want to thank all of the Councilmen who voted to keep the library at Southwestern and Skillman. This library location is nearly equidistant between the Lakewood Library, the Audelia Road Library and the Forest-Green Library. It will serve all of East Dallas and will provide a much-needed amenity for all citizens.

Construction should start in the spring of 1994, and hopefully, we will have a new library open and operating in 1995.


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