Aftertaste of election controversy disturbs Woodstock library discussion

Should the Woodstock Library change its election and budget votes to Election Day in November?  Complaints about this year’s vote count were heard at the library’s October 17 meeting.

President Dorothea Marcus explained that same-day voting as the regular elections wouldn’t be an extra expense for the library. However, complications prevented that. Trustees don’t run on party lines, and the requirements, including number of signatures to get on the ballot, are different, she said.

Since the library is a special district, councilwoman Laura Ricci, liaison to it, said both houses of the state legislature would have to pass bills to allow the change of voting day.


“But you could do it, and Laura, you could help,” former trustee John Ludwig insisted.

Trustee Caroline Jerome said the board had decided the change would too much of an investment in time and resources. Marcus said it was possible the board may re-explore the issue at a later time.

Hera complained about the vote counting at the end of the election on October 3. “I have never seen a more complex, crude and poorly organized counting of the votes,” she said. “It’s a crazy, crazy mess.” She plans to request a recount. She said election chairperson Stan Nitzky was reading a newspaper during the count. Because of the haphazard counting, she said, one tally sheet initially wasn’t included in the final count. Nitzky discovered the sheet the next day and submitted a revised count to be certified by town clerk Jackie Earley.

The new tally did not change the outcome.

There were six running for three seats. Leslie Gerber received 502 votes, followed by Dorothea Marcus with 493 and Howard Kagan with 484. The three defeated candidates running on a slate to keep the current library building were James Dougherty, 435 votes; Julie Szabo, 430 and Jesse Jones, 429. The budget passed 660-260.

Marcus suggested having a different group of inspectors come at the end of the night to do the count and they could do it with fresh minds and eyes. Machines were used in the past, but the electronic ones used now cost thousands to rent from the county, she said.

“We’re very open to a recount if someone wants to put in the request properly,” Marcus said.

Julie Szabo implored the board to be more willing to listen. “I’d like to encourage you to listen to the 47 percent who voted against you,” she said. Szabo expressed concern that the first things cut during the first round of cost-cutting suggestions to keep the new building within budget were the sustainability features, such as reclaiming materials from the old building.

Marcus said it had been a hard decision. “We felt no matter what we decided we’re going to disappoint half the community,” Marcus said. “We bit the bullet …. We knew people would be unhappy with it.”

Marcus explained the design by architect Stephen Tilly was chosen overwhelmingly by people who commented on the three finalists in a design competition.

Ludwig disputed comments that hundreds of people voted, countering it was only 108. Marcus replied that the end result and not the exact number that mattered.

A few ways to reduce costs

Trustee Howard Kagan told trustees that JC Alten, the construction manager agent, has suggested there were three ways to cut costs. One was to maximize the size, but make cuts in the interior. The second was to reduce the square footage. The third was to phase construction, with the library building what it can afford now and deferring the rest until later. 

Kagan asked trustees for a sense of direction. The board decided cutting square footage was the way to go. It wouldn’t compromise quality. Phasing construction would require the board to go through a contentious bonding process again.

Tilly’s firm recently proposed a 13,400-square-foot building, down from 15,000 square feet in the original request for proposals. Alten recommended reducing it to 12,000 square feet by reducing the size of each wall slightly and changing the width of aisles.

Tilly rendering vandalized

A library employee preparing to open the library on October 18 discovered the rendering of the proposed new building had been defaced by someone who wrote “$7 million *!” with a ballpoint pen on the bottom right-hand corner. It could have been anyone who used the reading room.

The rendering was to be used for fundraising efforts. Marcus said it wasn’t clear whether the writing can be removed. The library has contacted the local police department, and a record was made of the vandalism.