Port residents swarmed to the library in record numbers last Tuesday, October 6, to vote for the $5,968,960 bond which will be used to finance the expansion and renovation of Port Washington's existing library on Main Street, which opened 28 years ago. The vote, which included 87 absentee ballots was 558 against the bond, and 953 for. In other words, 63 percent of the voters voted for the bond.
Although this total number of people who voted was still only a modest percentage Port Washington residents who are eligible to vote (See 9/24/98 Port Washington News), these 1511 voters nevertheless outnumbered the people who voted in the last referendum in 1985 (to purchase the former Baker Funeral Home, a.k.a. Mackey-Baker house) by 468. They also exceeded the number of people who voted in the library's last budget/trustee election, which was 839, by 672. The largest voter turnout for a library election, however, was in 1971 when 5,309 residents voted to keep the library open on Sundays. The next largest vote was in 1993 when 2,633 people turned out to vote down the budget, which was later voted down again, of former library director, William deSciora.
This election also had its nay sayers. People who voted against the bond included Steven Schlussel, who complained in a letter published in this paper on Oct. 1, that the library staff had failed to research and announce how much more it would cost to maintain and staff an improved, expanded library. According to Schlussel, "It now appears the library may be hiring three new staff members." Others said they had voted against the bond because they wanted the Baker house/parking lot issue resolved first. One man said it would be ridiculous to expand the library and then discover that the library would never be able to increase its parking facilities.
Sam Bogen's letter, also in our October 1 issue, is credited with being the most persuasive, however, and for getting out the most votes. Sam said that even though he was the tightest fellow in town, he was "going to vote 'yes' on the library bond issue anyway for very tight-fisted reasons." He then cited four examples of why the library was such a bargain: free access to the Internet on his home computer, free movies, free concerts, and free books that can even be reserved. He estimated that the commercial fees for these same services would be about $545 a year.
Another factor credited with luring "yes" voters to the polls was Joan Kent's announcement in September that the privately funded Port Washington Library Foundation would donate up to $420,000 to the library for special purchases, programs and projects if the bond vote passed.
The people who had worked hard to get the bond passed - library staff, Friends of the Library, and library trustees - exhibited subdued optimism during the day as they watched many friendly faces march into the voting booths. Their optimism exploded into exuberance that night when the winning numbers were announced shortly after 10 p.m. Library Director Nancy Curtin's face beamed as she said ,"We were delighted with the support the community has shown us, not only in the voting booth, but also in helping us plan the project. We have really benefitted from the community's expertise."