Library OKs $20.8 bond proposal

Library OKs $20.8 bond proposal

The Great Neck Library board of trustees approved Tuesday a $20.8 million bond amount for Main Branch construction after a contentious, four-hour meeting highlighted proposed project additions that were apparently not previously discussed.

“This is history in the making,” said library President Janet Eshaghoff. “We are moving forward and getting this to the public.”

If approved by voters Oct. 25, the library would be closed for two years in a renovation and expansion project that would add 8,600-square feet and make the building accessible to patrons with disabilities. It would also expand the children’s room, teen center, audio visual department, and isolate computers.

The plan was estimated a year and a half ago to cost $22.5 million, and to add an additional $86 in property taxes on a home assessed at $1 million. Under current market conditions that number would be reduced to $80.

During an extended question-and-answer session, trustees repeatedly interrupted vocal critic and former library trustee Norman Rutta, saying, “We’ve already discussed this.”

Great Neck resident Elizabeth Allen was also told in response to a question, “We’ve already discussed this.”

Approved by trustees were several optional features trustees wanted but might not be able to afford, such as a $485,000 water-cooled air conditioner that will be paid for from the current budget. It will replace the cooling tower, which failed last month and was replaced with a rented unit.

Eshaghoff said in June she expected the bond amount would be reduced due to falling construction costs and interest rates, but trustees had not discussed the alternatives before the Aug. 9 meeting.

Trustee Marietta DiCamillo repeatedly criticized the lack of prior discussion about what the board referred to as “add alternatives.”

“The question is do we want to add any of the add alternatives,” DiCamillo said. “I do not think we as a board have ever had a discussion about them. Not one.”

The most expensive add alternative proposed was a $1 million geothermal heat-pump system, which was excluded after Great Neck Record Reporter Carol Frank informed trustees it is not allowed by the Water Authority of Great Neck North.

Only approved after a revote were solar panels, which construction managers said would pay for themselves in 15 to 20 years, and radiant slabs, which will warm the floor of the children’s room.

Denied without discussion or cost-benefit analysis was a green roof, which saves energy by growing plants on the roof, and a retention tank that stores rain water for use on landscaping.

“This shouldn’t have been just one meeting,” DiCamillo said. “This should have been many meetings. There are too many unanswered questions.”

After the first solar-panel vote, Rutta questioned trustees for rejecting an environmentally friendly option that would eventually pay for itself.

Eshaghoff said the same people who have been critical of the project were advocating for additional construction costs.

“And I’m very sorry I didn’t invite you to tea to say that,” Eshaghoff said.

Eshaghoff denied Rutta the opportunity to speak before a vote on the add alternative operational skylight system, explaining that he had already made his point.

Built into the construction budget is 10 percent for contingencies and 3 percent for inflation.

Also included is $250,000 for two years of rent for at least one satellite location, plus $175,000 for moving expenses. Other options include expanding hours at the Lakeville, Parkville, and Station branches.

DiCamillo questioned whether enough money was set aside for rent.

“We are not going to be able to provide the same level of services – the building will be closed,” she said.

Library Director Jane Marino said staff are already going through the library’s collection to determine what will be stored and what will remain available to the public.

Trustee Varda Solomon said programs must be reviewed to determine where they could most comfortably be located, because some, like the SAT tutoring program, could not be shuttered.

“You can’t answer every question that you will have about construction before a referendum,” said Park East Construction Corporation President James Wojcik.

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