What a great way to start off a new year (and a new decade)! We have just sent in the last installment payment for the land and building. Here is a little history on the legal battle and how we paid off the $30,000 debt:
The original land (one acre) was donated by Abel and Petrolina Lucero to be used for educational purposes. At the time, a new elementary school was needed and the WPA program built a beautiful three classroom adobe schoolhouse. The school was named "Placitas Elementary School" and was used until 1969 when a new elementary school was built. Two rooms were added and the room we now call the community room was occupied by the El Rito Headstart Program and the Rio Arriba Senior Citizens Center occupied one of the original classrooms. Las Clinicas del Norte did some renovations and moved in taking over all the other vacated rooms. A new clinic was built and Las Clinicas del Norte moved out in 1999.
The El Rito Public Library was established on May 5, 1986 by Clinic Director, Andy R. Lopez, and Professional Librarian Betsy McIntosh. It was a one-room library until 1999 (when Las Clinicas del Norte vacated) and then money was secured to renovate the space vacated. The Library expanded and the Senior Citizens Center was still here. When a new Community Center was built, the Senior Citizens Center moved out and the Library took over the whole building; but many renovations were needed. We were delighted to get a grant on October 14, 2003 in the amount of $40,000 from the Helen and Will Webster Foundation out of California. With this money we put a new roof and completely renovated what is now called the Fiction Room where the north wall had collapsed due to water seeping into the adobe wall.
The legal battle started when the heirs of Abel and Petrolina Lucero wanted to re-claim the land that their parents donated because they felt it was no longer being used for educational purposes. The law firm of Montgomery and Andrews, P.A. (Tom Olson) helped the Library (Pro Bono) with the legal proceedings until there was a settlement agreement. The Mesa Vista School District did not want the building because of its upkeep and they had no need for the building. Andy R. Lopez (School Board President at the time), Myron (Mickey) Simmons (Library Board Treasurer), Tom Olson (Attorney at Montgomery and Andrews), and Raymond Lucero (Family Representative) all came to a settlement agreement that the Library would pay the Luceros $30,000 (which was the value of one acre at the time). The agreement was that $15,000 would be paid initially and three yearly installments of $5,000 thereafter.
Andy R. Lopez (Director at Las Clinicas del Norte), John H. Caster (Library Board President); and Myron (Mickey) Simmons all drove to Santa Fe to meet with Owen M. Lopez (Executive Director) at the McCune Charitable Foundation. Mr. Owen Lopez agreed to grant the library the initial $15,000. The next two yearly installments were fund raised and the final installment was granted by the Helen and Will Webster Foundation.
Many thanks to everyone involved in making this milestone happen!