Decision time

Highland Public Library vote to take place on Dec. 14

by Megan Labrise
December 09, 2010 10:02 AM | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A sketch of the front entrance of the proposed Highland Library.
A sketch of the front entrance of the proposed Highland Library.
Decision time

Highland Public Library vote to take place

on Dec. 14

More than 150 people packed American Legion Post #193 on Tuesday, Nov. 30 to discuss the new Highland Public Library proposal. Highland Library Board President Peter Fadness answered questions and concerns raised at two prior public meetings at the final forum Tuesday, Nov. 30.

“I’m glad there’s so much interest in the library. I think there’s probably more interest now than there has been in a long time,” said Fadness.

The $6.59-million, 25-year bond vote is scheduled for Dec. 14 when the board will seek the public’s permission to move the library from a 2,500 square-foot house on Church Street to a 13,390 square-foot adaptive reuse on Commercial Avenue. After a presentation by Fadness, 17 residents spoke out for and against the project, as a letter signed by the “Committee to Stop the New Highland Library Building” circulated around the room.

“We already have a library. The last thing Lloyd taxpayers need is a new library building costing $6.6 million or more,” it read.

Supporter Carole CrimiVaroli, 41, disagreed, and said that a new library is long overdue.

“This isn’t a crisis now -- when I was in sixth and seventh grade, this library wasn’t big enough. It couldn’t accommodate us then... [This plan] looks to our future and that’s what we really need to be considering,” said CrimiVaroli.

The Church Street library has served a growing Highland community since the 1930s. Today, quarters are so cramped that the library must eliminate a piece of inventory to squeeze a new book on the shelves, said Director Julie Dempsey. Per its charter, the library serves approximately 12,830 people in a district congruent with the Highland Central School District, with approximately 0.20 sq.ft. of space per person. Most contemporary libraries, including Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz, are one square foot per person served, said project architect Pay Mays of Butler Rowland Mays Architects, LLC.

The search for a larger library began in 1989, and has included 14 prospective sites in the ensuing years.

“I want you to think of the new library as being that new 80-year building. We want something that’s going to last us so we don’t have to move into a new building in 20 or 30 years, that is going to be a real mainstay of the community,” said Fadness.

The proposed Commercial Avenue schematics show a two-story, state-of-the-art public building featuring: children’s and teens’ collections; a meeting room with seating for 63, a small kitchenette and storage areas; lobby and elevator; an ornamental, glass-front stairway; teen space; children’s help desk and toddler area; Hudson Valley Rail Trail access; fiction, non-fiction, new, popular and periodical collections; a local history room; circulation desk; staff processing area; director’s office and staff break room. Property design includes green space, an outdoor programs area, sidewalks, landscaping, pedestrian access, 35 parking spaces and room for future expansion.

Total project cost is estimated at $6.79 million. The board plans to apply $200,000 in existing capital funds towards construction. Line items include: $450,000 to acquire the two-story, 11,440 square foot industrial warehouse on Commercial Avenue owned by Matt Smith; $4.9 million in site preparation, demolition and construction; $15,000 to relocate existing resources; $361,000 in new furnishings; and $1.1 million in professional costs.

Highland resident Bill Bakey acknowledged the need for a change on Church Street, but questioned the urgency of the matter.

“I haven’t heard any comments from anyone that points out the emergency or crisis that’s involved in this activity... There’s a need for a change, there’s no question, but space can be garnered in several ways,” said Bakey, who suggested a pared-down inventory and remote storage. “That’s a pretty damn reliable building you’re in. It’s just too small. So you need something larger. But if you took your excess number of books out, maybe you could [use] it for a little bit longer, during this period of economic downturn that we’re going through and will be going through for the next several years.”

The owner of a $250,000 home currently pays approximately $72.50 per year in library taxes. If voters approve December’s building referendum, that homeowner will pay an additional $78 per year for the life of the bond, or $150.50, not including increased operating costs. The Library Board estimates utility use for the new building at $2,175-2,900 per month, a 4-6 percent increase in the library’s overall budget, from $391,994 to $417,794 annually.

Resident Herb Litts asked if it would be possible to acquire the Commercial Avenue building, construct a one-story library and rent the second floor, with a provision for expansion in the event of an economic upturn.

“It’s kind of a make or break deal with this project,” said Fadness. “We would have to start again, redo studies, all those things, plans.”

Rafael Diaz of Highland said that a temporary scale-back may be penny wise and pound foolish.

“I favor the full library, period... I looked at other libraries; this is in the ballpark. It’s really required. If you go into [the current] library, you can see that... [A] scale back to 5,000 or 6,000 square feet -- that’s not going to cost zero. It’s not going to cost half of 13,000 square feet,” said Diaz, who estimated a 5,000-6,000 square foot library at $3.5-4 million -- a $25-30 annual difference for the average taxpayer.

The meeting closed at 8:30 p.m. due to venue constraints, but Fadness said the conversation would continue on to the Dec. 14 vote.

“Please feel free to e-mail, stop in at the library. It’s a continuing conversation we want to have with you, and I want to thank you all for coming here, for the respectful comments and the tone. We really appreciate it,” said Fadness.

For more information, including diagrams, environmental assessment results and contacts, visit

The details

A vote on the proposed new Highland Public Library building will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 14 at the American Legion Hall, 84 Grand Street, Highland, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. All registered taxpayers in the Highland Central School district are eligible to vote. The referendum will read as follows:

PROPOSITION Bond Referendum $6,599,872.00

Shall the Board of Trustees of the Highland Public Library (the “Library”) and the Board of Education of the Highland Central School District be authorized to: (1) acquire approximately 1.0 acres (+/-) of land located at 10-12 Commercial Avenue in the Hamlet of Highland, Town of Lloyd, and the building located thereon for use by the Library, reconstruct the building, including site work, and acquire original furnishings, equipment, machinery or apparatus required for the purpose for which such reconstructed building is to be used, at a maximum cost of $6,799,872; (2) expend such sum for such purpose; (3) levy the necessary tax therefor, to be levied and collected in annual installments in such years and in such amounts as may be determined by the Board of Education; and (4) in anticipation of the collection of such tax, issue bonds and notes of the District at one time or from time to time in the principal amount not to exceed $6,599,872, and levy a tax to pay the interest on said obligations when due?

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