|Our Morris Public Library|
Located a stone's throw from that building was the public library. (Be careful when typing that you don't type "pubic" instead of "public.") The Post Office is located across the street from the old newspaper building. Other buildings with a public purpose, like churches, are in the vicinity.
The old core of the town doesn't seem to have the pull it once did. You can buy postage stamps at Casey's. We see bleak headlines about the U.S. Postal Service - its financial teetering on the brink.
We used to have parking meters in downtown Morris. Those were removed because they couldn't be justified anymore. Economic geography was changing. The store we know as ShopKo opened under the name "Gibson's."
The institution known as the "pool hall" vanished. That's where the men went and congregated, in a light-deprived world of its own, as their wives shopped.
I share this background as a way of expressing disappointment over our library's current woes. The Morris Public Library is an anchor of that old "core," still most vibrant. That is, until it came under siege from the heavens: rain. How long will the library be closed? It's hard to get firm answers. Perhaps we take for granted its services. We may not realize its full value to our community until it has been closed for a while.
Water damage can be a huge impediment. A library is the worst possible place to be afflicted with water damage, isn't it?
I have a feeling the library disaster can not be overcome routinely. Public officials are carrying themselves in a nonchalant, self-confident way right now, saying in effect that everything is under control: "insurance will cover" etc. Insurance companies are not fond of paying huge claims. They aren't fond of paying at all.
We all know a roofing company was present doing work at the time. Many of us are connecting the dots and assuming that company must have been negligent in some way. Someone even laughed at me for suggesting we can't assume this. I don't think we can assume it. Water issues were not new at the library. Drainage has not been deemed ideal.
If the problems now get fixed, which really they'll have to be, I'll scratch my head and wonder why it couldn't have been done before.
I don't blame city officials for carrying themselves in a confident, self-assured way about this. What would you expect them to do? Point fingers and call names? I actually think we'll see some of the in-your-face conflict but it will be behind closed doors. We live in an age of "conflict resolution" in which it's a faux pas to let conflict come out in public. I do think we may see dueling insurance companies re. our library and its woes. And you know what happens when a big claim is paid: premiums go up. Money's honey, my dear sonny. Nothing gets people's dander up more.
I assume the Morris Public Library cannot re-open unless there's 100 percent assurance that no mold smell will develop. The asbestos matter must be dealt with. Because the library is a public institution, I assume that adherence to myriad codes is necessary. That's fine and well.
The library should never have been put in a position where this kind of disaster could happen. Whatever insurance company covers this, would be the first to assert this. What happened to the library cannot be shrugged off as "one of those things." I heard someone say the heavy rainfall was "an act of God." The library is 45 years old. Certainly there have been other comparable rainfalls. Certainly the building must be insulated from a simple hard rainfall. If it isn't, what insurance company would cover it?
Someone is going to end up getting blamed for what happened. It was an egregious oversight. It's hard to see how the library is going to get fixed 100 per cent. Already the Library Foundation was studying ways of moving the library forward, improving its services, the soundness of the physical plant etc. Now the priority is going to be simply fixing the disaster that has befallen it.
The library has helped prop up the old core of Morris. The newspaper building has been vacant a long time, and is now being taken over by a church. No help for the tax base there. The Post Office as a national institution is under siege with horrible financial numbers. The street in front of First Lutheran Church (my church) is in such bad shape, I try to avoid it. I've been told the street got wrecked when the courthouse underwent its substantial renovation. If that's true, the county should fix the street as a freebie.
The Catholic Church? I just came from McDonald's where I read the house paper and learned that a high official said he wasn't aware it was illegal for priests to have sex with children. So, the Catholic Church has its problems.
The funeral home used to be across the street to the east of the newspaper. The funeral home is now on the town's fringes as are an increasing number of important enterprises.
It's true that the courthouse is fancier than ever, far fancier than what we need, in my view. So, the courthouse definitely holds forth in the old core. The library ought to, as well. What happened to the library was avoidable and dispiriting - no mincing of words justified. To heck with "conflict resolution."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org