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Town voted money for Roe Jan Library but that’s all in the past now, says board

ANCRAM–To paraphrase a verse: Ask, and you shall receive, but if you don’t ask quickly enough you just might be out of luck.

In a January 15 letter to Town Supervisor Art Bassin, Roeliff Jansen Community Library Treasurer Carol Gilbert Sacks inquired about the town’s missing annual donations to the library for the years 2008 and 2009.

Ms. Sacks wrote that Ancram had contributed $1,500 to the library in 2004 and $2,500 in 2005, 2006 and 2007, but that no contribution for 2008 or 2009 had been received.

When she pointed out the situation to the library’s Board of Trustees, Ms. Sacks said she was asked whether a formal request for the money had been made. Discovering that no such request had been sent, she then attempted to rectify the situation with the January 15 letter.

“I understand that money had been allocated in both 2008 and 2009 for the library. If it were possible, it would be wonderful if that money could be donated now,” she wrote.

Supervisor Bassin brought the matter to the board’s attention at the February 18 Town Board meeting and asked members to decide what to do about it based upon where town finances stand now.

Councilman Jim Miller said the town should give the library the $2,500 allocated in the current budget and not $7,500, which would include the $2,500 budgeted for the library in 2008 and 2009.

Councilwoman Madeleine Israel said, “Obviously the library did not need the money if it didn’t ask for it.”

Ancram resident Mary Ann Roche said she did not understand why the money had not been contributed to the library if it was in the budget for the past two years.

“Because they never asked us to pay them. They have to submit a voucher,” said Councilman John MacArthur. He called the Roe Jan Community Library’s new building “a bit too extravagant for me” and noted that many Ancram residents live closer to and use the public libraries in Pine Plains and Millerton, in Dutchess County.

Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Leah Wilcox said that Ancram is historically tied financially to the Roe Jan Library because Ancram, Copake and Hillsdale are all part of the library’s charter area.

Mr. Bassin said that Ned Schneier, the president of the library’s Board of Trustees, wants to speak to the board next month about a voter referendum that would ask Ancram taxpayers to approve an annual $15,000 payment to support the library. Voters in Copake and Hillsdale already approved ballot measures for that purpose several years ago.

Money to support the library would then come directly from property taxes, just like money to support the local fire district does now.

The library would become a “taxing authority,” said Mrs. Wilcox.

Ancram resident Nick Nickerson said the library has become an important place for youngsters, who go there to get access to computers and meet friends.

Councilman Chris Thomas said the library should have conducted the funding referendum in Ancram before it built the new building, noting, “Now they are over a barrel.”

But Councilman MacArthur said the money the library is now requesting is for its general operations.

The new library building on Route 22 is not yet complete, and the library continues to operate from the brick building on Route 23 in the Hillsdale hamlet.

A small number of the 80 or so people in the audience raised their hands in response to a call for a show of hands of those who use the Roe Jan Library.

“The [new] building is funded,” asserted Town Justice Bob Wilcox, who went on to say, “The library, along with many other civic services, is what separates us from the savages. If we were to eliminate services based simply on the number of people who use them, we would close the pool and not build a new playground.”

In the future the town should consider giving funding to all three of the local libraries that serve Ancram residents, instead of just one, said Councilman MacArthur, who made it clear he was in favor of sending the Roe Jan Library $5,000.

Former councilwoman Donna Hoyt said that if the town wants all three libraries to stay in existence then the town should fund them all to some degree. “Anything is better than nothing,” she said.

Ancram resident Jane Shannon pointed out that local contractors were hired to build the new library, which is located somewhat closer to Ancram than is the old library in Hillsdale, and she said that the new library has space for community events.

In the end, a majority made up of Councilman Miller, Councilwoman Israel, Councilman Thomas and Supervisor Bassin voted in favor of a resolution to send the library $2,500. Mr. MacArthur opposed the motion, holding out for $5,000.

Reached by phone February 23, Ms. Sacks said she was “delighted” that Ancram would be giving the library $2,500.

Ms. Sacks said she would be “perfectly happy” to submit vouchers for the town’s contribution in the future, but said she had never submitted a voucher before, and until 2008 none had been required.

Ms. Sacks confirmed that the town’s contribution goes toward operating expenses, which are now $110,000 annually.

She characterized that annual sum as “inexpensive for a library that does as much as we do.” And she said that the library is lucky to have so much “wonderful volunteer help.”

The library board hopes that the new library will be ready to open by June, said Ms. Sacks. The total cost for the new building will end up somewhere between $2.5 and $2.8 million.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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