As promised and slightly ahead of a self-imposed deadline, the Woodstock Library Facilities Task Force, asked to evaluate possible solutions to the library’s immediate space and facility needs released its final report January 27.
The 60-page document that calls for an expansion in the rear of the library in lieu of a streamside annex is available for public viewing at woodstock.org/ftf.
The document, in pdf format, is broken down into sections navigable through links that methodically justify the 12-member panel’s rationale.
The task force was formed in July in response to growing public concern over library trustees’ proposal for a $1.6 million annex at the site of the former Library Laundromat across the street from the library. Originally conceived as an interim solution for space needs outlined in a 2007 feasibility study, the annex grew in scope from a 1,000-square-foot, $400,000 project to a two-story building on an 1,800-square foot footprint at three times the cost.
While the library’s facilities task force calls the original annex idea an “admirable goal,” it noted the cost and scope grew beyond what is feasible. Further, the panel argues, the annex would not fulfill the library’s programming requirements.
“In short, the FTF believes the Library can achieve more of its program needs than the Annex would supply with the major fundraising effort the Annex would require,” the report notes.
Though it recommends an updated master plan to incorporate an estimated 4,500 square feet of additional space, the task force in its report strongly suggests the rear, or north side of the library as a solution.
The master plan “should also seek to remedy the structural and environmental issues of the existing building,” which the task force says is energy inefficient, not ADA compliant, has potential indoor air quality issues, is overcrowded and structurally overloaded. Further, it should also come up with other uses for the former laundromat site, the report says.
Regardless of what is done, future plans likely fall outside the scope of the library’s Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, with the town in order to bypass planning, zoning and other regulatory scrutiny.
Early in the annex planning process, the library asserted its authority as a separate taxing district as justification to bypass these steps in the same way the town can do with any municipal project. This was originally thought of a way to speed the process and cut costs.
But this past summer, the Town Board said the MOU was based on the premise of replacing the laundromat with a building of the same size. Anything different, Supervisor Jeremy Wilber said, would require both sides to come back to the table.
The task force’s thoughts on the MOU?
“We aren’t legal experts. And we noticed that even legal experts seem conflicted about the relevant statute,” the panel says in its Frequently Asked Questions section of the report. “We felt it was enough for us to be aware that the Town Board and the Library Board were at odds as to the meaning of the MOU and to acknowledge the problem.”
In the interest of transparency, should the library just go through the normal process?
That would foster goodwill, but it costs time and money, says the task force. “That is a decision for the library board to make.”
The library Board of Trustees will receive the report and offer the opportunity for public questions at a special meeting February 5 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall on Tinker Street.
The board will then discuss the report’s ramifications at its regular meeting February 19 in the library.