Highland Library sets March 17 as date for vote on construction of a new library

Highland Library director Julie Kelsall-Dempsey. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Highland Library director Julie Kelsall-Dempsey. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The vote on whether to build a new public library in Highland has been set for Tuesday, March 17. The costs of construction and taxpayer impact have not yet been determined. Those figures are expected to be ready for the community by Monday, January 5, to be revealed at a public meeting to be held at 6 p.m. at Lloyd Town Hall. “But we’re pretty confident that it will be at least $2 million less than the bond that went down in 2010,” said Highland Library Director Julie Kelsall-Dempsey.

Back then, Highland residents rejected a $6.6 million, 30-year bond to construct a new library. The decision was close, the proposal losing by less than 100 votes. The project at that time involved renovating an existing 13,000-square-foot structure, argued against by its opponents as too big an undertaking in a tough economy. The current library on Church Street has just 2,900 square feet, well below the average size for a community the size of Highland. (At workshop meetings held earlier this summer, architect Paul Mays of the architectural firm Butler Rowland Mays presented statistics that compared Highland to five other neighboring towns with similar populations, whose libraries range in size from 5,400 square feet at the low end — Town of Ulster — to New Paltz’s 13,000 square feet at the high end. In between are Marlboro, Fishkill and Esopus, whose libraries are in the 8,000- 9,000-square-foot range.)

The parcel of land intended for construction of the library this time around is an empty 2.3 acre lot currently owned by St. Augustine’s Parish. There is a contract in place to purchase it from the church for $125,000 contingent upon voter passage of a bond issue. The location is just two-tenths of a mile from the current location at 30 Church Street, where the nearly 100-year-old Highland Public Library has been housed for almost 85 years. The structure has been deemed beyond economic feasibility to renovate, with mold and leaks and cracks in the foundation among its numerous problems. Boiler problems and lack of heat even caused the recent closure of the building for nearly a week in November.


The floorplan for the new library calls for an interior space of slightly more than 10,000 square feet. It will be designed as a structure that could be expanded in the future. Were that to happen, parking would have to expand, as well, with the standard amount of parking one space per 300 square foot of building, according to Mays.

In the months to come before the vote, the Highland Library will continue its fundraising efforts to support the capital project and offset taxpayer costs. The Winter Wishes Raffle offers the opportunity to win a variety of prizes at a cost of $10 per ticket, available at the library and businesses throughout the hamlet. One winner per day beginning in January will take home prizes valued from $50 to $500, including beauty and spa services, catering and gift baskets. Participants must be age 21 or older to purchase tickets.

For more information, e-mail library director Julie Kelsall-Dempsey at jkelsall@highlandlibrary.org or the board of trustees at librarybot12528@highlandlibrary.org. Updates on the proposed project can be found on Facebook.com under “Citizens for a New Highland Library.”