On Tuesday, October 6, Port residents will have the opportunity to vote for or against a $5.9 million-plus bond that would finance the expansion and renovation of the existing 28-year-old Port Washington Public Library on Main Street. If approved, according to information on a flier published by the library, the average Port Washington household, with a home assessed at $10,000, would have to pay approximately $45 more a year in taxes for the next 20 years. The vote - be it passage or defeat of the bond - will only affect plans for the existing library building. It will not affect separate plans to construct a parking lot next door, nor will it affect a movement to preserve the former Baker Funeral Home/Mackey-Baker house.
If passed, the bond money would be used primarily to increase space for library books and services. New construction would add 10,000 square feet to the existing building, and 36,400 square feet of existing space would be renovated. A brochure from the library indicates that shelf space for children's books would therefore be increased 21 percent, fiction - 36 percent, non-fiction - 37 percent, and reference - 46 percent. New spaces would include rooms or areas for a Young Adult Center, a Local History Center, a 10-seat classroom, a new 45-seat meeting room, a browsable video collection, and a computer services area. There would also be additional space for two small study rooms, quiet study areas, work study tables, and more computer terminals in both children/teen and adult areas.
The largest project in the mechanical/equipment upgrades category would be the replacement of the existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units. The new units would be part of a multi-zone system and thus ensure greater temperature control and cost effectiveness.
The plans also call for an improved ambiance in the library. There would be an outdoor terrace facing the harbor off the main reading room. New areas added beyond the existing southern and western walls would have glass walls that permit a view and light from the outside. More comfortable seating and work tables would be added to the reading room, as well as an open stairwell leading to additional stacks below. The lobby would have one large all-service desk, and a coffee service with cafe tables.
The bond would not, however, cover the cost of filling these increased and enhanced spaces with more and better books, computers, research materials, etc. Money for such purchases would have to come from the general operating budget, which voters must approve annually, or from donations from the Port Washington Library Foundation. The Foundation recently announced (see 9/17/98 Port Washington News) that it would grant up to $420,000 to the library "to enhance the proposed expansion of the library." The grant resolution specifies that "the grant shall be used for programs, projects, collections and expenditures not generally funded by the library's tax levy budget nor by the Bond Issue." It also stipulates, however, that none of this money will be released if voters don't pass the bond.
Additional details of the construction and design plans can be obtained by reading the October 23, 1997 issue of the Port Washington News, reading fact sheets and brochures distributed by the library and available at the library, and viewing the detailed renovation plans behind the information desk in the library's main reading room.
The total estimated construction cost for the library addition and renovation, according to a brochure handed out at the library's September 15 open house, is $5,968,960. The building addition and renovations would cost $3,989,960. Furniture, finishing work and equipment would cost an additional $540,000. The remaining $1,439,000 would be needed for testing and inspection, legal fees and bond cost, moving equipment and telephones, liability insurance, design and construction contingencies, and unforeseen escalation costs.
Just as the exact cost of the construction can not be predicted ahead of time because the price of labor and materials vary, the exact total cost of the bond can likewise not be known. That will depend on economic market conditions the day the bond is floated. Nevertheless, current, accurate information available indicates that the cost to taxpayers will be somewhere between 32 and 45 cents per $100 real estate valuation for 20 years. Because the average Port Washington home is assessed at $10,000, the average tax bite will therefore be between $32 and $45 a year, or, as library literature phrases it, less than $4 a month.
Because NYS Law does not permit the library to borrow money, the bond money must be borrowed for the library by the school district. The school district's bond counsel will therefore handle all details related to the bond.
If voters approve the bond in October, renovation and construction will begin next spring and take 12-18 months. One of the primary duties of Turner Construction, a construction consulting firm hired by the library's board of trustees, is to work out a fiscally responsible schedule for all phases of the project so that there is as little disruption of normal library activities as possible. A final plan has not been worked out yet; so it is not yet known if the main library building will have to have temporary closings to accommodate construction and/or the health of staff and patrons. The library board has discussed the possibility of renting space for a satellite library if closings become necessary.
Any US Citizen over the age of 18 who has lived in Port Washington for at least 30 days by October 6, is eligible to vote. Prior registration is not required. Even though the bond will be financed by property taxes if passed, a resident does not need to be a property owner to vote in library elections.
Voting will take place in the Lapham Meeting Room in the library from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. People who can't get to the polls that day, can obtain absentee ballots beforehand at the library administration office Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
People with general questions about the renovation project or the bond, can call Library Director Nancy Curtin at 883-4400.