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Massena Public Library board convenes for first meeting

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MASSENA - Tuesday night was the beginning of a new era at the Massena Public Library.

The library’s Board of Trustees convened for the first time since being appointed by the Massena Town Council. Robert Manning, Emily Hutchison, John “Jack” Bain, Linda McDonald and Mark Englert replaced the previous board of John Acton, Richard Geiser, Pamela Ouimet, Lisa Bero and Barbara DeLine.

“It’s a historic situation,” Interim Director Paul Schaffer said. “Within a few months, an entire board of directors resigned.”

The town council voted to close the library for three days last month because there was no board and no director, as Lynn Fountain had also resigned. The library reopened when the council appointed Mr. Schaffer to serve on an interim basis.

All five members said they stepped up and volunteered after hearing of the turmoil on the previous board and the resulting library closure.

“It’s a library. It’s supposed to be peaceful and calm,” Mr. Bain said. “Let’s get rid of the drama, get back to business and move on.”

“How do we ensure the best services to meet the community’s needs with the budget we have?” Ms. Hutchison added.

Mr. Englert said his job as a village police officer inspired him to volunteer.

“My employment brings me in contact with some youth that could use an activity rather than the criminal mischief at our wooden park,” he said.

Mr. Schaffer, who had served as the library director for several years before retiring just over a year ago, guided the board through the meeting. He explained the library’s organizational structure, distributed manuals and handbooks, shared data on budget numbers, circulation reports and the employees’ union contract and informed them of Open Meetings Laws and appropriate grounds for executive session. The board entered into an executive session at the end to discuss hiring a director to replace Ms. Fountain, but took no action afterward.

The board appointed Mr. Englert as president, Mr. Bain as vice president, Ms. McDonald as treasurer and Ms. Hutchison as secretary. Members also unanimously voted to appoint Patricia Guay to a vacant library page position at a rate of $9.14 an hour. Ms. Guay will work seven hours per week, Mr. Schaffer said. She had previously worked as a library page.

The board held off on filling a vacant part-time clerk position, but agreed hiring for the page should help the staff with any shortages caused by the vacancies.

“It will take a little bit of the pressure off the whole staff,” Mr. Manning said.

The board also voted 4-1, with Mr. Englert dissenting, to hire Northway Carpet & Floor Center of Massena to clean the library’s floors for an amount not to exceed $1,000. Mr. Schaffer said the library’s carpets had not been cleaned in two or three years and Northway had completed the service before.

Mr. Englert said he dissented because he wanted more information about different cleaning firms.

“A past business relationship might not be the most fiscally responsible at this point,” he said.

A moment underscoring the meeting’s unusual circumstances came when the board approved the previous two meetings’ minutes written by Ms. Bero. One of the meetings was when Ms. Bero revealed Mr. Geiser had pressed misconduct charges against her, while the other was when Mr. Acton and Mr. Geiser resigned.

“We’re approving minutes for a meeting none of us were at,” Ms. Hutchison said.

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