Woodstock Library Trustees indefinitely delayed choosing an architect to complete the design for a new building and re-submitted a measure calling for a referendum to the board of elections on dissolving the library district amid confusion about whose responsibility it was to handle.
Trustees had intended to choose an architect at the September 20 board meeting. Instead, after much discussion during a September 17 closed session, they announced the delay.
After the September 13 Public Be Heard session, “people were comfortable with keeping the public comment period open a few more weeks,” Building Chair Jill Fisher said.
Some who attended the session have written letters to the editor expressing frustration that they were intimidated out of speaking. Opponents to the new building held signs at the September 13 session in favor of the referendum to dissolve the library district and accused the trustees of not listening to a survey in which 71 percent of respondents favored something other than new construction. Trustees have criticized the survey as flawed and vague in its language and stressed it was one of many sources of information in their January vote for new construction.
“We want to get as many people in as soon as possible…so we’ll keep (the comment period) open for awhile,” Fisher said.
Models and descriptions of the proposals from the three finalists — Ashokan Architecture & Planning of Kingston, Argus Architecture & Preservation of Troy and Stephen Tilly of Dobbs Ferry — are on display in the Art Books room of the library. Trustees are inviting people to look at the models and information and submit comments through woodstock.org/3possibledesigns or by dropping them in a box in the library.
In the meantime, President Dorothea Marcus said the board has received answers from the architects about specific structural questions.
Woodstock Town Clerk Jackie Earley rescinded the submission for a referendum on dissolving the library district from the Ulster County Board of Elections because statures in General Municipal Law do not make it clear if that is the responsibility of the town or library board. Earley said her responsibility ended once she certified the petition signatures.
John Ludwig, who organized the petition drive that led to the referendum, told trustees the deadline to submit the referendum was September 22, but that the Board of Elections was willing to accept it as late as September 24.
After a roughly hour long closed phone session with attorneys, the board reopened the public meeting and announced it would be submitting the referendum.
“The town has requested we submit the referendum to the Board of Elections and we intend to do so.” Marcus said.
Board of Elections officials confirmed September 25 they have received the referendum proposal and that it will appear on the ballot November 6.
In August, trustees passed a resolution to deliver the referendum to Earley for certification by the Board of Elections. Earley then became aware that the law does not state whose responsibility it is to forward the referendum question. Since it is a library matter, Earley pulled the referendum and requested the library submit it.
The question that will appear on the ballot is unchanged from the August resolution. It is a Yes or No question that reads “Shall the Woodstock Public Library District be dissolved and terminated?”
The referendum is the action of a vocal group that has argued the board is not listening to the will of the people and has been neglecting maintenance on the existing building. The group prefers the Town Board assume control of the library, citing its track record with recent renovation projects.
As trustees have noted, the referendum only addresses library governance and there is no guarantee the town will take control. Should the referendum pass, the law requires trustees to draft a plan to transfer assets to a municipality, school district or nonprofit.
Friends elect board members
The Friends of the Library, a nonprofit organization that assists the library with funds for programming and other expenses, held its annual meeting on the library lawn and elected officers.
Serving for fiscal year 2018-2019 are President Michael Hunt, Vice President Claudia Gahagan, Secretary Rana Talbot and Treasurer Erin Cadigan.
Leslie Siegel, who received the 2018 Volunteer of the Year award, has retired after many years with the Friends.