The Woodstock Library referendum

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

I’ve read all the letters (ALL the letters), and the Op Eds, worked through the facts and tried to present them in a concise and objective fashion on the front page for those of you who might be confused about the hundreds of minute details regarding the issues surrounding the library referendum. And I’ve had conversations with principals on both sides of the issues, and have to say that in the final analysis, I’m disappointed that I haven’t been given a choice that I believe works in the best interests of the community. 

The current course of events has ripped at Woodstock, and, given the current political climate, enabled a desperate battle. Oh, we’ve always fought our battles, from sewer districts to the Comeau Property, to the Post Office, to the RUPCO project and many more, and we’ve always been quite candid with each other about how we felt. But in the Trump era, we’ve said worse, and thought less of each other. It’s become a desperate bloodletting. 

I don’t believe there is a ghost of a chance that Woodstockers would ever approve a $5 million loan to tear down the old library and build a new one. I wanted an opportunity to vote on that. I may still get a chance, though we may be headed toward murkier territory. 

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The opponents of a teardown and construction of a new building chose a drastic solution, seeking a dissolution of the library district. Forcing this referendum has raised many more issues than the main one — whether to build new or renovate — and backed the Library trustees into a corner without a way out, kill or be killed. Surely there was another way to leverage the power the petitions and the survey gave them to find some kind of negotiated solution. If the Yes votes win, then it will be up to the slain, the current library trustees, to formulate a plan for the library’s future, which is also their own funeral. Now there’s a grim chore, but the Library’s survival will depend on it. 

But I’m also not very happy with the library trustees, who have, for the last 11 years, lurched from one public relations disaster to another. First, in the name of a $5 million renovation in 2007, they sought to increase the tax levy by 144 percent for what they considered a ‘down payment’ on the project. That budget was soundly drubbed, 84%-16%. In 2013, the library sought to use the old laundromat property, which had been prudently purchased, for an annex. Trouble was it started out as a $500,000 project that ballooned into a $1.6 million project, leaving observers to believe that trustees never met an architect who couldn’t bump up the price.

They argue that there are different people on the board, but the result is in such keeping with the past that a link is unavoidable. I would have thought that the survey on which Sam Magarelli and Gay Leonhardt worked with the library that showed 29% support for a teardown and new building construction, would have provided enough information, flawed as it may have been, to avoid what’s happened.  

In an editorial August 30, 2007, I wrote “This one hurts. How do you tell the people who run the institution you love, one you consider vital to the life of the community, that you use constantly — the people you believe run the institution competently and lovingly — that they’ve made a mistake?” Why am I still writing this? 

So if you think that the library governance has hit a wall in its intransigence, can no longer govern, and that the whole system needs what could be a lengthy overhaul, and that the town can do better running the institution, then vote Yes. 

If you are ready for the library trustees to grind their way toward what most likely would be another defeat in an attempt to convince you of the need for a very expensive pie in the sky, then vote No.

Sadly, no cooler heads have prevailed. 

And regardless of which side wins, it’s not likely anything will get done soon to improve the physical working conditions of the plant. And that’s a damned shame.

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