Work could begin in early July on the Woodstock Library’s future home at 10 Dixon Avenue if all goes according to plan. Per results certified May 13 by the Ulster County Board of Elections, a proposition to borrow $3.95 million for the purchase and renovation of a building at that location was approved by town voters, 845-500.
The next step in the process is for the Woodstock Town Board to pass a resolution approving the borrowing, since the town is the entity with bonding authority. Munistat, the town’s bonding agency, will prepare documents to market the financial instrument by June 1.
Banks will bid on the bonds and the library should have the funds by June 28, according to library board President Jeff Collins. He anticipates closing the purchase for the former Miller/Howard Investments headquarters by June 29.
Collins has taken the lead in the Dixon Avenue purchase negotiations, though his future as board president is uncertain after he was arrested for removing anti-bond signs during the heated election campaign. He has offered to resign at the May 19 board meeting, but is leaving the decision up to the trustees.
The Library has an agreement to purchase the building for $2.579 million. Renovations will cost an estimated $1.2 million, and the remaining funds from the $3.95 million bond will be used for moving expenses. Once the purchase is finalized and the library takes possession, Collins hopes contractors can begin removing walls to inspect structural members to determine what reinforcement is needed. The building was constructed in 2013 as offices, which have a lower load-bearing requirement than libraries, which require 150 pounds per square foot per building code.
Collins believes some sort of request for proposals for contractors will be issued based on plans drawn by architect Marty Nystrom, who has donated his time. Plans will need to be finalized and the library will select bids from those submitted.
The roughly 12,895 square feet of usable space will allow for a larger children’s room, meeting spaces and quiet study areas. A secure, climate-controlled room will house valuable archives. Groups will be able to hold meetings after-hours through a separate entrance, allowing the library’s collections to remain secure. At the current location, the library must trust those who use the building after-hours not to remove anything from the collections, since there is no way to close off sections of the building.
Air quality and mold problems plague the old building at 5 Library Lane, facing Tinker Street in Woodstock’s main hamlet, to the point where some people who have sensitive respiratory systems have said they cannot enter the building. Library trustees have said that there is no cost-effective way to structurally reinforce the current library to bring it up to code. It received an exemption from state authorities this year because it doesn’t meet the minimum requirements to be certified as a library.
Responding to criticism that moving the library to Bearsville will make it inaccessible to those who live in the center of town and don’t have transportation, library officials said they are working with UCAT, the county bus line, to have regular service. A shuttle and volunteer drivers are other possibilities.
Once 5 Library Lane is vacated, the library will seek to sell the building along with the former laundromat parcel, across Library Lane. Trustees have committed to keeping the lawn, which is a separate parcel, free of development. A committee will be formed to make recommendations on how to use the proceeds from the property sale.
Opponents of the library’s plans pointed to a 2012 environmental report showing elevated levels of arsenic and lead from former operations by lens maker Model Optics. The library commissioned test borings and a followup report from Colliers Engineering that found no arsenic or lead exceeding state thresholds. All other chemicals found were below the limits acceptable for household use. The property also received a clean bill of health from Woodstock Water and Sewer Superintendent Larry Allen, who said the site does not pose a risk to the nearby town water supply. The Woodstock Environmental Commission concurred with the Colliers report and recommended regular indoor air testing as a precaution.
During the tempestuous bond approval campaign, Collins was arrested and charged with petit larceny and possession of stolen property after he removed anti-bond signs that said “Don’t Buy a Toxic Building Site.” Collins later said it was a mistake to remove the signs and called it a moment of bad judgment.
He is scheduled to appear in Woodstock Town Court May 18 at 4 p.m.
If at first you don’t succeed…
The bonding approval is long-sought victory after more than a decade of failed attempts to build a better library for Woodstockers.
In 2007, trustees, fearful a large bond wasn’t palatable to voters, sought to double the operating budget to more than $1 million to gradually pay down an estimated $5.7 for a new building. Voters hugely rejected that plan 1062-216.
Then came a plan in 2012 to build an annex on land across the street occupied by the former Library Laundromat. The library purchased the property for $71,000 at a county tax auction. Early estimates to build the annex came in at $300,000-$400,000, but that figure rose to $1.6 million as the plans expanded. Trustees eventually scrapped the annex plans amid rising criticism and formed a facilities task force to explore its options.
By 2018, the board made a commitment to build a new library. That same year, opponents got a referendum on the ballot seeking to dissolve and terminate the library district. They argued the library would be in better, more competent hands under town control. The referendum was defeated by a 2-1 margin.
That same year, trustees had chosen Dobbs Ferry architect Stephen Tilly to design a New England grange-style structure on the same footprint as the current library.
In 2020, a $5.8 million bond issue for the project failed by 11 votes.
In July 2021, the 10 Dixon Avenue property became available when the COVID-19 pandemic made Miller/Howard Investments realize the work-at-home lifestyle was just fine and it didn’t need large office spaces. Architect Marty Nystrom got to work on plans for the building and by September, trustees had approved a purchase agreement pending passage of a bond.