The Erie County Library will soon be welcoming Gannon University’s Great Lakes Research and Education Center, but not without a fight.
Erie City residents came together to get the attention of County Executive Brenton Davis and university administrators put a stop to the process.
Dozens of concerned citizens, including current candidates and former council members, gathered on the front steps of the Blasco Library for a public rally.
Those who attended were trying to make their voices heard as they oppose leasing space in the library to Gannon University for their Project NePTWNE Initiative.
On Oct. 17, Erie County Council approved the private university’s Great Lakes Research and Education Center. 3,280 Square feet on the east side of the library will be renovated for the center.
“Giving away public space to a private entity is wrong. Especially without input,” said Anna McCartney, organizer, concerned citizen. “County council and county government did not get the word out about a decision they made.”
McCartney started a petition on Change.org that currently has over 1,000 signatures. Her goal is to get 10,000.
“It was said by one of the council members that ‘well they don’t need to be involved if we involve them in everything that we do, every decision we make we would never get anything done.’ And so wait a minute, this is our government,” McCartneysaid.
Former county council member Mary Rennie said Saturday was all about protecting the rights and interests of the citizens of Erie County.
“What the public wants to see happen to its buildings, the public is entitled to have happen but they cannot be bypassed, they cannot be disrespected, they cannot be ignored and that’s what happened with this,” Rennie said.
Rennie believes that the university and county has given the public a sales pitch.
“If you look at the lease agreement, there isn’t one bit of all of that flashy information,” she said. “Whatever Gannon produces here, they own the space that they are leasing. They are entitled to quiet enjoyment of it as the lease stipulates, it is not longer public space.”
“Do the moral thing. You supposedly teach your students be moral and go out in the community for social justice. Well this is not social justice, Gannon. So please, tell county council that you made a mistake,” McCartney went on to say.