Brewster Library Seeks Building Expansion, Voter Referendum

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In hopes of doubling its size, the Brewster Public Library wants to put a referendum out to voters sooner rather than later that would provide funding for the large-scale expansion.

Library officials and trustees came to the Thursday Southeast town board meeting in hopes of convincing the town board to hold a special election that would determine if voters want almost $3 million worth of renovations done on the old library along Main Street. The library board would’ve liked to see the referendum on the ballot for this upcoming general election, but the deadline was missed to have it placed.

Currently, Brewster library director Gina Loprinzo said the library is falling short in providing services to residents because of the lack of space. The programs the library offer simply don’t have the room to accommodate everyone that wants to take part, Loprinzo said.

The current library is about 4,000 square feet and under the proposed expansion, it would be about 8,000 square feet. The expansion would also provide more private areas for library patrons and staff. Right now there is only one private room in the entire building and the director doesn’t even have an office.

The expansion would also help the library become American with Disabilities Act compliant.

“We’d like to grow and continue to meet the needs of the community,” Loprinzo said.

While 30 percent of town residents have a library card, some are going to out of town libraries like Kent, Patterson or Mahopac, all significantly larger than Brewster, Loprinzo said.

Loprinzo noted there are already many issues with the current building that include the need to replace windows and light fixtures, as well as other critical repairs. She noted library trustees wouldn’t overtake those minor projects if a mass renovation were on the horizon.

A grant has also been applied for, Loprinzo said, that could go toward a portion of the expansion.

Loprinzo said the library board would like to see a special election as soon as mid-winter or early spring, though the town board didn’t seem very receptive.

Supervisor Tony Hay said he wasn’t in favor of special elections because people don’t come out to vote in them. The average household assessed at $331,000 would pay on average $32 per year if the referendum goes through, Hay said, and it would likely result in the town busting the tax cap.

Councilman Bob Cullen said he thought special elections can’t be held for town matters, according to town law, though he wasn’t sure if that was connected to the library, too. He added a special election would be pricey for the town compared to the general election that Putnam County pays for.

Councilwoman Lynne Eckardt said she wanted the process to be transparent and homeowners should know how the project could affect their tax bill.

She questioned why the library wanted a 50-person auditorium when Studio Around the Corner, which is next door, has a 69-person theater. She suggested consolidation where it could be achieved.

After the meeting, Brewster library trustees were disappointed that a special election seemed unlikely to get town board approval.

Trustee Peter Carey said by putting a referendum out to the voters as soon as possible, it would allow the library to apply for grants before deadlines pass. Those grants would defray costs to town taxpayers, he noted.

“The voters should be the ones that decide,” Carey said. “And I understand the board’s thing about turnout, however if people really want something, they’ll turn out and vote and if they don’t want it, they’ll turn out and vote.”

Trustee John Blaser said in other communities, the library is the center of town. He would like to see that happen in Southeast.

“Southeast doesn’t have a center,” Blaser said.

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