Woodstock Library officials approved the purchase of the former Miller/Howard Investments headquarters in Bearsville for $2.579 million and to ask voters to agree to bond (borrow) $3.95 million to cover buying and renovating the building, along with moving expenses.
The purchase agreement is contingent on bond passage, with the vote slated for late winter 2022. But it does include a nonrefundable $33,000 deposit, which will be applied to the total payment if the bond passes.
The renovations needed to repurpose 10 Dixon Avenue as a library including strengthening it to handle the weight of book stacks, are estimated at $1.31 million. That leaves about $60,000 for moving expenses.
“I’m just going to say that my belief is that JC’s (Construction Manager JC Alten’s) numbers are always very conservative as far as expenses, and he does a very good job of making sure that the numbers we see are numbers that we can believe in and it’ll be that number or less,” Library board President Jeff Collins said at the December 16 trustee meeting. “So I have full faith that the 1.31 is a really decent number that we can believe in and get under.”
Some items, like an elevator, necessary to make the building ADA compliant, may be eligible for grants, Collins noted. Any grants can be applied to reduce the amount the library borrows. “I just want to make sure people understand that the way a bond works is it’s the maximum amount that we can borrow. It does not mean we will borrow that much money. It means we can borrow up to that much money,” Collins said. “So if, for example, we can bring the cost down to below the 3.95 (million), and so we only borrow 3.7, we only pay back 3.7.”
The library plans to hold a bond vote on or around March 1, 2022.
Trustees also approved $4,219.75 in fees for the Ulster County Board of Elections (BOE) to run the bond vote and use machines. Collins said he felt the BOE involvement was vital because of the bond vote’s importance and higher expected turnout.
“I would like it to be done by electronic balloting, which is a more reliable counting system and have the inspectors be inspectors hired by the Board of Elections instead of the library. I want to make sure that everyone feels like the count and the operation of the election is 100%. Totally fair and aboveboard,” Collins said.
Spreading the word
Trustees had discussed the possibility of large meetings at the Community Center, Town Hall and the firehouses. With winter coming and the COVID-19 pandemic still an issue, the library may hold virtual meetings via videoconference or have a hybrid, where the meeting is held in person but also streamed and people can ask questions remotely.
“Especially with the pandemic in the winter, and with some of our voters maybe being in the south in warmer weather, they could participate by Zoom and understand how they want to vote,” Trustee Dorothea Marcus said. “Maybe we could do a video of the Miller/Howard building showing what our ideas are for using the space.”
“People are selling houses with videos. A friend of mine sold a very expensive house in Kingston to somebody in Berkeley, California, by them seeing a video of the house,” Trustee Barry Miller said. “Why don’t we do a walkthrough as somebody who was selling a house. We’re not selling, but we’re describing the building. We’re showing where all the things are.”
Funds from the sale of 5 Library Lane?
Trustees are excited about the bond vote and move, but Sam Magarelli, a longtime opponent of the library’s plans, pushed for using proceeds from the sale of the current library to offset the bond. “I’m disappointed that I didn’t hear any allusions to using the sale of the old library building and property to mitigate the expenditure of the bond,” Magarelli said. “Now, I understand agreeing to the purchase, agreeing to the movement with the bond, they have to unfold in those steps, but I would like to hear the library speak to using this sale of the old library building to reduce the cost of the bond,” he added.
Collins replied. “For me, the sale of the building is speculative and essential. I don’t know what we’re going to get from it or when we’re going to get it. So to say that we can apply that to the bonds is a difficult thing for me to do. I need to basically say we may not be able to do that.”
Collins did say he is against using the sale proceeds to pay for the planned addition. “I believe the addition should be paid for entirely and only through donations. The sale of the building should not go toward that. So that frees up the sale of the building proceeds to go toward operating cost changes. We do expect increased operating costs going to a larger facility.”
Collins also said he doesn’t want the purchase and renovation of 10 Dixon Avenue to get wrapped up into the sale of 5 Library Lane.
“We could have one commercial developer that wants to turn it into Hotel Woodstock, which would be widely opposed by the community and I’d understand that opposition. And they might offer twice as much money as someone that wants to turn it into a gallery or an art museum which would be much more amenable to the town,” Collins said. “So going for the money may not be something that actually is supported, whereas going for what’s best for the town may bring us less money…”
Marcus said it is possible using the sale to offset operating expenses would have a more beneficial impact on taxes than reducing the bond.