Library Task Force members spar over floodplain

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

The Woodstock Library’s Facilities Task Force continued to grapple with environmental concerns surrounding construction of an annex on the former Library Laundromat site while including the needs of the current building and programs.

Jerry Washington, a member of the task force’s environmental subcommittee, presented multilayered maps at the September 9 meeting showing that the footprint of the proposed annex’s pilings and floor sit within a 100-year floodplain.

Washington said his maps are based on FEMA data that, while very detailed, may be about 95 percent accurate. While the floodplain may be exaggerated by 5 percent, it also may be short by 5 percent, he noted.


In addition to the floodplain issues, there are water flow issues, said Washington. The section of Tannery Brook narrows as it runs behind the former laundromat property, making the water run at a faster speed with a higher water level, he noted.

While task force co-chair Maria DeFranco seemed ready to publish Washington’s findings on the library website, other members were hesitant.

“Jerry, with the best will in the world and all this work, is not an engineer,” said task force member and library trustee Elaine Hammond.

Member Eliza Kunkel objected because the information was not being compared to other potential sites.

“It’s good to know all these things, but I don’t know how you can come to a conclusion without certified information,” member Esther Ratner said.

“There’s not a piece of information up there that has not come from a certified organization,” said Washington, pointing to a map on an easel.

The task force was formed as a response to growing public mistrust over the handing of a proposed $1.6-million annex across the street from the library on the site of the former Woodstock Laundromat. The panel is tasked with reviewing the 2007 feasibility study that pointed out the need for more space and to explore some alternatives to the annex proposed by the public. It will make a report to the library trustees.

The chosen annex design by Joel Sanders Architect includes a 2,050 square feet of space on an 1,800-square-foot footprint at the site of the former Woodstock Laundromat across Library Lane that includes a 65-seat meeting space that can be divided into smaller areas, a “maker-space” workshop, two unisex bathrooms, a small kitchen, storage room, front and rear decks and a roof deck.

Flooding and stream sensitivities aren’t the only worries for an annex across the street. A utility pole carrying electrical and other services across the Tannery Brook to Town Hall would have to be moved. Logistically and technically it may be complex and expensive.

Member Joe Mangan, who’s task it is to review current facilities along with member Sean Ritchey, said the currently library building does not need a lot of work, but is overcrowded and inadequate in its current state. The structure is stressed to its limit with the weight of books, but if that load is shifted to another building, the current library could be used for administrative and meeting space. Major issues to be addressed are mold and standing water in the basement, said Mangan, calling those “life safety issues.”

The currently library needs to be considered in future plans, but “until we develop a strategy, we don’t know what to do with this building yet,” he said.

Mangan recommends adding onto the library with a 6,000-square foot building. Library Director Amy Raff had estimated the library needs 16,000 square feet for all its programs and now has 10,000 square feet available, he said.

Mangan suggested possibly using the laundromat parcel across the street for a rented temporary building to be used during construction.

Going with the concept of looking at the overall picture, library trustee and task force member Barry Miller explained the concept of placemaking, where planning involves the entire picture and not just the building being considered.

“We have a very sensitive area across the street,” Miller said.

As an example, Miller noted how the area around Pratt Institute was dilapidated. Design students got together with the community and revitalized not just the campus, but the neighborhood.

Miller feels something can be done with the laundromat property while keeping the environment in mind, but believes some of the critics’ ideas are misguided.

“A parking lot. That’s the worst thing you could do with that space,” he said.



The task force also invited consultant Kim Alderman to explain the importance of soliciting large gifts if any kind of library expansion is made possible through fundraising. A major gift is anything above $5,000, she said. Alderman worked with consultant Linda Hartley on a presentation to library trustees this spring.

Alderman said it’s necessary to get major donations lined up before starting a public fundraising effort, otherwise it may be nearly impossible to reach a goal. She recommended forming a separate campaign committee with a $15,000 “give-get” requirement for members. In other words, prospective members would be required to either give $15,000 or pledge to bring in the money from other sources.

Mangan expressed concern that starting a private campaign before asking the public for help may alienate a big segment of the population.

“If we want the people of Woodstock to get behind this, they have to feel it’s a good thing for the library,” Mangan said. “If the community is cut out, I can see where people get concerned.”

The task force next meets Tuesday, September 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the library.