Woodstock Library Board of Trustees President Jeff Collins has offered to resign from that position as he faces larceny and possession of stolen property charges after being caught on camera stealing a “Vote No” sign regarding the Tuesday, May 10 library bond vote.
Collins was arrested at his Woodstock home Saturday afternoon and charged with one count of petit larceny and one count of possession of stolen property, both misdemeanors, after admitting to taking one sign. Officer Phil Sinagra, assisted by Sgt. Adam McGrath, found a total of five signs at Collins’ property, which will likely lead to more charges.
The most recent theft from the intersection of Zena and Rowe roads was captured on a trail camera May 6 at 5:06 p.m. Police were able to confirm through vehicle registration records that the white Ford Fusion appearing in the photo belongs to Collins.
Chief Clayton Keefe said police have fielded numerous calls during the contentious campaign leading up to the vote to borrow $3.95 million to move the Woodstock Library, about signs disappearing or being run over with vehicles, all of which will be investigated as part of the case.
Collins was released with a ticket to appear May 18 at 4 p.m. in Woodstock Town Court.
“On Friday, May 6th, I made a mistake. In a moment of bad judgment, I removed a sign that is part of the disinformation campaign being waged by opponents of the library bond,” Collins said in a written statement in May 8. He plans to offer his resignation at the May 19 library board meeting, nine days after the bond vote.
Collins said the sign he removed was on county property and not private property.
“And my mistake was to remove the libelous sign myself instead of contacting the relevant public officials to remove it. The Town of Woodstock recently removed the libelous signs from town property after receiving reports of their being posted. I should not have taken matters into my own hands,” he said.
Collins explained that, in his view, there are two types of anti-bond signs. One has a plain “Vote No” message and the other includes what he called a “libelous statement” calling the proposed library site in Bearsville a “toxic building site.”
“I have not, and would never, remove the first type of sign nor remove any type of sign from someone’s personal property. I do, however, have the right to remove signs placed on property I own without my permission.”
Collins said the other signs found on his property were the “libelous” signs and without knowing who put them there, he couldn’t return them to their owner.
Finally, he urged, “The bond vote is not about me, and it has never been about me. It is about what is best for the town.”
The May 10 bond vote will ask voters to borrow $3.95 million to purchase and renovate the former Miller/Howard Investments headquarters at 10 Dixon Avenue and move the library to the location. The current library building and front lawn parcel would then be sold separately, and a committee will make recommendations for spending of the proceeds.
Library trustees say the move is necessary because the current building is structurally inefficient and does not meet standards for a modern library.
Opponents, among other arguments, say soil and groundwater pollution from the property’s former industrial use by Model Optics poses an unacceptable risk.
Library trustees have noted chemicals and heavy metals are below the state threshold for residential use of the property and are not of concern, according to a report by the New Windsor firm Colliers Engineering and Design. Woodstock Water and Sewer Superintendent Larry Allen said the site poses no risk to the nearby town water supply and the Woodstock Environmental Commission concurred with the environmental review, while suggesting frequent indoor air quality monitoring as a precaution.