Southold Library bond vote Saturday

10/12/2010 1:16 PM |

Six million dollars in bonding for a $7.1 million plan to expand and renovate the Southold Library will go before the library district’s voters Saturday.
If the bond is approved, the addition would create a community room, a full-service young adult room, extra space for staff and a more functional layout, according to library officials. It would also include a Main Street entrance and a courtyard at the front of the building, which currently can be accessed only from Traveler Street.
The library has $825,000 on hand for the project, collected through fund-raising, with a goal of $1.25 million, said library director Caroline MacArthur in an interview last Friday.
District residents will be asked on the ballot Saturday whether to bond up to $6 million for the project over the next 20 years, at an annual cost not to exceed $585,000. Ms. MacArthur said that, if approved, the measure would cost library taxpayers an additional $18 per $1,000 of assessed valuation each year, on top of the $24.49 per $1,000 that taxpayers currently contribute to the library budget each year.
Library officials estimate that the renovation will cost a taxpayer with an average assessment an extra $115 per year.
The bond vote will be held in the library’s community room from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 16.
“There’s been a huge increase in the need for community space,” said Ms. MacArthur. “Our community room is used constantly. The community room in the addition will be larger. It will be dividable and will be usable when the library is closed.”
Young adult library usage has ballooned in recent years, even though the library does not have a dedicated teen room.
“In 2005, we hired a young-adult librarian, and attendance went from nothing to 1,000 attendees” each year, said Ms. MacArthur. “Librarians are seeing a need and teens are responding.”
Patron Internet use at the library doubled between 2006 and 2009, not even counting people who bring their own laptops to use the library’s recently installed Wi-Fi service.
“We have five adult Internet PCs and they’re always in demand,” she said. The expansion plan includes seven more Internet PCs for adults and three for the new teen room.
The original Southold Library was built in 1891. With an addition on the back of the building put up in 1991, the library’s total floor area is 8,900 square feet. The expansion plan, which was first proposed by the library board before the economic downturn of 2008 and was shelved until this summer, would add 7,700 square feet.
The project calls for $3.8 million to be spent on the expansion and the remainder to be spent on renovations, site work, landscaping, permits and consulting fees. The plan includes a hefty $750,000 contingency line.
Three critics of the proposal turned out for a public hearing on the project in mid-August, citing the bad economy as a factor that needed to be taken into account before the library spent taxpayers’ money.
Ms. MacArthur said Friday that the library is hoping to take advantage of the economic downturn to bond at a lower interest rate. She said that she had recently received a quote of 3.9 percent, nearly half the 7 percent interest rate that the library had used in its cost projections.
She said that the library will continue private fundraising throughout the construction process, which will be complete in the fall of 2012 if the bond is approved. The two parcels next to the library, where the addition will be built, were acquired with donated funds several years ago, she added.
“If we raise more than $1.25 million, we will use that to pay down the bond,” she said.
“I know there are concerns in the community. Some people disagree,” she said. “But I’m available to anybody to sit down and talk and that has changed people’s minds. My library tax is 2 percent of my tax bill. My house is on the modest size, and my library tax will probably go up $2 per week.”
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