Before voting on any issue in Farmers Branch, residents must first navigate a wasteland of opinion and misinformation. One might initially assume that officials and staff are responsible for the situation. However, this opinion landfill is created by residents.
It used to be standard practice to turn to neighbors and hear them weigh in on city issues or items up for vote. Now, everyone just voices their complaints online.
On May 4, Farmers Branch residents will vote on a $24 million bond proposal to replace the Farmers Branch Manske Library, according to farmersbranchtx.gov.
In 2016, the Farmers Branch Citizens Bond Committee determined the Manske Library should be prioritized for future budget allocation. At the time, Gallagher Construction Services estimated in a memo the renovation would cost $7.9 million.
On Feb. 4, the company updated the estimate to $11.7 million. That amount exceeds 50 percent of the replacement cost of the library.
Due to the scope and cost of the work needed to renovate the library, Farmers Branch City Council members determined it made more sense to relocate the library across the street. In a four-to-one vote Feb. 13, the council agreed to allow residents to vote on the issue in May.
A “Paul Revere ride” began throughout neighborhood-based social media site Nextdoor decrying the proposal to be an evil descending upon Farmers Branch residents. Within two days, there were four different threads on this issue, with a total of 343 replies.
Nextdoor was created to help neighbors build stronger and safer communities, according to its website. Instead, it’s become an avenue for mud-slinging and heated discourse.
One thread began, “The price they gave us for the new library does not include the tear down and haul away of the current (in good shape) library nor the cost of building a parking lot in its place.”
This is misinformation. According to documents on the Farmers Branch website, the cost of building a new library includes the cost of demolition, asbestos and material removal, as well as the construction of a new two-level parking garage.
Several residents described recent visits to the library, expressing that it did not need renovations. Lacking building inspection credentials, I fail to see why anyone should trust these opinions.
Farmers Branch staff and the city council agreed it would be more fiscally responsible to build a new library instead of spending more than half the amount of the now-proposed bond on basic repairs and renovations. In addition to the cost of renovation, issues regarding the flood plain and a potential year-long shutdown during renovation also impacted the decision to move forward with the proposed new library.
In another post on Nextdoor, one resident proposed an arbitrary $3 million to be a more appropriate amount to spend. No supporting information accompanied the figure to explain why it was chosen.
Another resident suggested the entire concept of libraries is nearly obsolete. When asked to show facts to support this theory, the resident answered, “advances in technology.”
We should be cautious to share our opinions so freely without factual information to support them.
I know several people on the Farmers Branch library board and city council. To my knowledge, none of the people I know are shady, as some on Nextdoor called them, or sit around secretly hatching plots on how to game the system. The closest a library board member came to gaming the system was figuring out how to maximize the cheese-to-cracker ratio at a recent PTA meeting.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that does not give anyone the right to engage in fearmongering, making and spreading accusations, misinformation or name calling. Voters should not rely on opinion, but instead conduct research before arriving at a decision.
I love the Manske Library for the programming it provides, not for the building itself. I want my tax dollars to be spent on a new building that will allow for continued growth while ensuring the success of existing programming, not just Band-Aid renovations.