BRASHER FALLS - The town of Brashers attorney is currently reviewing petitions submitted by residents to establish a branch of the Massena Public Library in downtown Brasher Falls.
The petitions seek to have a resolution on the November ballot asking voters to allocate funding to establish the branch library.
Brasher Town Supervisor M. James Dawson said the petitions had been submitted to the town clerk and have been forwarded to the towns attorney for his review to determine if the petition meets the criteria necessary to earn a spot on the ballot in November he told library branch supporters at last weeks town board meeting.
The petition requires the valid signatures of 80 signatures 10 percent of the Brasher residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election to get the proposition on the ballot. The petition must have been signed and witnessed by registered Brasher voters, local officials have said throughout the process.
Emily Owen, a consultant from the North Country Library System, said the petition submitted to Brasher officials had 130 signatures, including 89 from residents of the town of Brasher.
Massena Public Library officials have said plans to open a branch library were developed after a survey conducted several years ago by the Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce indicated a strong interest in having a library in Brasher. The proposed site for the branch library is in Crapser Hall on the second floor of the Boothe Building.
The proposal, if it is placed on the ballot, will ask town residents to allocate $56,000 per year from the tax levy for the library. The projected costs include $13,000 for a part-time managers salary and benefits. That person would be paid approximately $15.73 an hour for 15 hours a week. Other expenses include $10,000 for furniture, $12,500 for a starter collection, $3,600 for heat and lights, $5,400 for the technology and automation startup and rent at $400 a month for a five-year lease.
The cost for Brasher residents would be an additional 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The current tax rate in the town of Brasher, for town and highway expenses and chargebacks from the county, is $5.43 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Mr. Dawson said he was remaining neutral on the branch library proposal, but he and his fellow board members gave the plan a tough review as they grilled Ms. Owens and Massena Public Library Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer about the effort.
The Brasher town supervisor said he understood a library had been mentioned on the chamber survey sent to residents of the Tri-Town area - towns of Brasher, Lawrence and Stockholm - several years ago, but he said he had heard nothing about support for the concept in the community until he was approached by representatives from the Massena Public Library and North Country Library System earlier this year.
He noted he thought the chamber had sent out 10,000 surveys six years ago. Thirty percent of the 2,800 respondents reportedly wrote in library as something they would like to see in the Tri-Town area. There were 2,512 residents in the town of Brasher in 2010 and 2,337 in 2000, according to the census.
What kind of surprises me a little bit is since that survey was done nobody has come and asked this board to start a library. Ive never been approached about it until now. Nobody has come to our meetings and said anything about it, he said, noting he wasnt attempting to come across as an opponent of libraries. Im a retired English teacher. I think libraries are fun and good.
But, Mr. Dawson said, he had some concerns with the marketing of the library in Brasher Falls as a site where students could walk to the branch to do school work.
We represent people from Massena Flats, Brasher Iron Works, Helena, Brasher Center. We have a lot of people that live in a wide expanse and wouldnt be able to walk to the library, he said.
Councilman William D. Demo, who said he felt the survey being used as the genesis for the library was closer to a decade old, said he didnt feel the petition had given its signers an indication of the cost the proposal would add to their tax bills - a fact disputed by library supporters - and questioned the origin of the branch library concept.
Its kind of wishy, washy, he suggested.
Ms. Owen said the North Country Library System had been contacted about the possibility of establishing a library in the town of Brasher, and it was determined the branch library would be the most cost-effective proposal.
It saves you a lot of money to do it through the Massena Public Library, she said.
Councilman Mark Peets asked if the neighboring towns of Stockholm and Lawrence had been asked to contributed to the costs of the library. Ms. Owen, who noted two library districts - Potsdam and Norwood - already stretch inside the municipalitys boundaries, said they had not.
Town of Brasher tax dollars would fund it, and anybody can use? Mr. Peets asked rhetorically.
Thats what is happening now with the Massena library, Ms. Owen countered.
Mr. Dawson said if the petition is ruled valid the board will pass a resolution to place the proposition on the fall ballot.
We send it to the board of elections, and they place it on the ballot, he said.
Brasher resident Keitha Arquiett asked if the board could keep the proposition off the ballot, even if the petitions were deemed valid.
You cant stop it, Councilwoman Margaret Burns said.
Could you have stopped it before the petition? Could the board have said it is going to cost people too much in tax dollars? Ms. Arquiett wondered.
Mr. Dawson reiterated the board is obligated to have the proposition on the ballot if the petitions are ruled valid.
Then it is up to the electorate to decide if they want to spend this money. This is line item in the budget, not a special district, not a separate line. It would be a 13 percent tax increase for the library, he said.
Its the boards job to give out the facts. Its incumbent on us to do that without taking a stand one way or another, the town supervisor said.