Woodstock Library officials have learned that defending against a lawsuit aiming to stop the facility’s move to Dixon Avenue will cost $25,000, according to an estimate from attorneys.
“It’s my intention to make it very clear to the public how much this lawsuit is costing them and their taxpayer funds,” library board President Jeff Collins said at the July 21 board meeting. “The public intention of that suit is to have a new bond vote.”
It is not yet clear if the legal expenses will come out of the operating or capital budget, but in either case it will be a cost to the taxpayers.
Board members were advised to refer any questions about the lawsuit to the library’s law firm, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP of Albany, but they can talk about the costs.
Two Woodstock citizens, Hera (no legal surname) and Elaine Hencke, filed an Article 78 petition June 27 to stop the move from 5 Library Lane to the former Miller/Howard Investments headquarters at 10 Dixon Avenue in Bearsville on the grounds the library failed to do its due diligence in the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process by misclassifying it as a Type II action, which indicates there is no change of use.
“This misclassification is fatal to all subsequent proceedings, including the vote purportedly authorizing the issuance of municipal bonds to pay for the library project, the issuance of the bonds themselves and the closing of title to 10 Dixon scheduled for June 29, 2022,” the petition states.
Collins has said the library attorneys are well-versed in environmental law and have determined the Type II classification is correct.
Hera and Hencke, who lead a group calling themselves Library Lovers, have argued the site is contaminated from former occupant Model Optics which manufactured lenses, as detailed in a 2012 report.
The library board commissioned testing this year showing chemicals detected were below acceptable levels for household use of the property.
The library closed on 10 Dixon Avenue June 29, but has agreed not to do any excavation on the part of the property containing the alleged contamination until the Article 78 petition is adjudicated sometime in September. Work on the building will proceed.
The Library board discussed the second draft of the 2023 operating budget which anticipates a 2.07 percent levy increase and a 0.8 percent spending increase.
Highlights of the $690,330.89 spending plan — an increase of $5506.37 — include a 5 percent increase in pay, plus an additional $8190 for doubling one part-timer’s hours from 8 to 16 hours per week in anticipation of being in the new building.
“So we’re adding a quarter percent in anticipation of needing to staff up,” Director Ivy Gocker said. “That’s about the bare bones of staffing up we could do.”
The Social Security Administration’s cost-of-living increase for last year was 6 percent and it is expected to be higher this year, Gocker noted.
The book budget will be unchanged in an effort to keep the tax burden at a minimum.
The staffing budget increases are balanced out by cost savings in other places including materials.
The budget proposal is expected to be finalized in August.