Referendum set for June 21 on library/town hall project

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:59

    MONROE-The Monroe Town Board and the Monroe Free Library Board of Trustees agreed this week to hold a public referendum on the proposed $12.8 million Town Hall/Library project on June 21. The referendum would ask voters whether they would support funding the project through a 20-year bond. Town Attorney Kevin Dowd will prepare the referendum documents and the Town Board plans to vote to approve it at its next regular meeting scheduled for April 18. The current proposal is for a 39,975-square-foot building, 70 percent of which would be for library space. The shared building would allow room for continued growth for both. Community rooms and substantial parking are included in the plan as well as some roadwork that would provide more convenient access to and from Route 208. The referendum was originally scheduled for March, but it was postponed as the state explored whether there were any historical aspects that needed to be preserved on the property. None were found. At Monday's meeting, Project Manager Irv Zuckerman said that the design of the building was kept tasteful yet simple so that some other elements could be added into the project should costs allow it. The intent, he said was "to present to the public a building that is not overly garish." He also added that aspects such as the parking areas for up to 50 vehicles not only provides greater access but saves money on items such as landscaping and drainage. "I'm confident we can meet budget projections, even allowing for slight increases in costs," he said. Some Town Board members still have concerns. Supervisor Sandy Leonard said the perception that she was against the library "is absolutely not true." However, she added: "A difference of opinion does not mean opposition. I think that a cost of $325 per square-foot is high. It is too much for us to pay, considering we have an alternative" - the M&T Bank building on Lake Street. "I know that you don't have an alternative site," Leonard said to the Library trustees, "but our board will explore every option available with you should this vote not pass." Councilman Peter Martin also voiced concerns about a 20-year bond, saying that this board has always tried to maintain a "pay as you go" approach to funding projects. He cited the five-year bond for the renovation of the State Police barracks, the cost of which is fully offset by the lease payments received. "I'm not against the educational or the social aspects of this project," Martin said, "but the Town Board has to look at a larger picture." Architectural drawings of the proposed building are currently on display at the Library. In anticipation of a favorable vote on Monday, the Town Board and the Library Board of Trustees approved a shared expenditure for the production of a "virtual model" of the proposed building. Unlike a physical model, a virtual model would allow changes to be incorporated as they occur and provide a realistic rendering of a completed building on the proposed site. The virtual model would be on CD and made available at a number of locations throughout Montor, thereby allowing the model to be viewed by a greater number of residents. Mike Conte, a consultant for the library, said that the "co-venture aspect" of the project was the biggest issue to overcome in order to win public approval. He was referring to the November poll, which suggested that while about 70 percent of those polled supported plans for a new library, only about 40 percent saw a need for a new town hall. Councilman James Rogers, a member of the building committee, said that he thought the biggest perception to overcome would be taking library and town services out of the village. But one Library Board member said that she walked from Elm Street to both the old and new locations and said that using the Heritage Trail, the new location was actually closer. Representatives from the Library Board of Trustees, who have been working on budget projections, will attend the town's five-year plan workshop that the Town Board has scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 18 at the Senior Center on Mine Road. The regular Town Board meeting will follow at 7:30 p.m.