A 5-2 vote pushed forward a water research lab that will make its home in the Blasco Library.
Tuesday night, the Erie County Council approved Gannon University’s next steps for Project NePTWNE but not without pushback.
Some people who voiced concerns said programming at the library could be cut, as the space and resources are utilized by Gannon., but the county administration said otherwise.
Despite a contentious night of deliberation in the county council chambers surrounding the potential use of space at the Blasco Library, council is moving forward in support of Gannon University’s Project NePTWNE.
The university will rent out about 3,000 square feet of the library for a research and education lab. The 25-year lease would have Gannon paying the county over $22,000 per year.
It’s something that has some library supporters furious, as only five days have passed since the lease was introduced to the council budget to be voted on for passage with no community input.
“Why does council think the citizens it represents should not have a say about what happens to one of our most important resources?” said a concerned citizen.
The Erie County Executive Brenton Davis administration has been backing the move, offering council members a tour and explaining about how the leased space would be utilized.
The administration claims public discussion isn’t necessary for something like this.
“For county council to pause on a $25,000 lease that is money incoming, like we’re gaining money on this. To have a public hearing on this, we’d never get anything done,” said Davis.
Procedure is something several council members have been frustrated about throughout the Davis administration’s tenure.
“I believe that process matters. I’ve believed that time and time and time and time again over the last 18, 19 months, we’ve had an issue with the process,” said Andrew Horton, an Erie County councilman.
“We give a million and a half dollars of ARPA money to Gannon for this project, and now they’re going to come and rent from us and give us our ARPA money back. I don’t know how legal that is,” said Terry Scutella, another Erie County councilman.
An attempt to table the resolution failed, and as the community began to understand the way the council was preparing to vote, many of the standing-room-only crowd flooded to the exit during statements from the council.
Almost everyone in attendance agreed that Project NePTWNE is a great initiative but argued the library shouldn’t become its home.