Stifled in court, what are tiny library's expansion options?

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Rose Memorial Library's home at 79 E. Main St. in Stony Point, in an image on the library's Facebook page.

Rose Memorial Library officials continue searching for solutions following a court defeat quashing a referendum that would have allowed Stony Point voters to decide whether to approve funding for a historic schoolhouse to replace their tiny building.

A judge in September ruled in favor of Stony Point Town Clerk Megan Carey’s actions invalidating hundreds of signatures from petitions required to put the matter before voters in November. The library’s legal counsel advised against an appeal, library Director Alice Meacham said.

It was the second time in five years the library had failed to win support for purchasing and renovating the vacant, 125-year-old brick building at 117 W. Main St. A referendum on the funding failed at the polls in 2017.

This year’s proposal sought an increased budget contribution in 2023 from Stony Point of $1.475 million for a total of $1.8 million. The town’s annual contribution would have remained at $1.8 million through 2033, which would have covered the building’s purchase, an estimated $8 million for renovations, and operating costs.

After the proposal was revealed last summer, Town Supervisor Jim Monaghan used a Facebook post to warn residents that Rose’s request would lead to tax increases for homeowners and businesses during an already challenging fiscal climate. The town clerk disqualified the petition signatures in August.

A statement from the library’s board after the judge's ruling called the petition errors "the well-intentioned attempt by the library to assist the Town Clerk." The statement said the board was “disheartened” not only by the town government’s opposition, but its effort to keep the referendum off the ballot.

Monaghan wrote in a Nov. 22 email that the Town Board "supports the desire of the library to expand, as long as it can be done in a fiscally responsible way."

The supervisor said the library would be welcome to host meetings and programs in shared space being created by renovating the unused, east side portion of the Patriot Hills Clubhouse.

But Meacham called meeting room space "a fine band-aid for one of the myriad issues the library faces, but is certainly not an acceptable long-term solution to the Stony Point community's library needs."

"Even with offsite programming space, Rose Memorial would still be far beyond maximum capacity for its collection, storage, and public and staff spaces," she stated.  "Without an expansion, we would not have the physical or budgetary ability to modernize our STEM/tech programming or offerings. We do not have and cannot create in our current facility a dedicated teen space, and as far as I know, there are no plans by the town to build any safe, supervised, year-round spaces for local teens in the future. "

Meacham said the library is weighing its options, and holds open the possibility of trying a third time to garner support for purchasing the schoolhouse.

'Underserving our community'

The library’s current home at 79 E. Main St. is too small to host some programs and meetings, leading to the need to rent space at a nearby dance studio for children’s programming, and forcing adult programs to be waitlisted, Meacham said.

Rose Memorial’s 3,500 square feet needs to be tripled to accommodate the community’s needs, said the director, whose own office serves as a history and storage room.

“We know that our community members are not being served the way that they need to be and the way they deserve to be,” Meacham said last summer. “The budget that we have, the building that we have, by the state of New York has been determined to be underserving our community.”

The library is no longer under contract for the vacant school building’s $1.4 million purchase price, Meacham said, but is still in conversation with its private owner. “It’s the only building of appropriate size in the town,” she said of the four-story 12,000 square-foot building. “We’re not left with a ton of options.” The library’s current property doesn’t have the space for expansion, she said.

The building opened in 1897 as the Stony Point School for grades K-12, and became Stony Point High School sometime in the 1940s or early 1950s. It was later used as an administration building before changing hands among private owners. Plans to convert it into residences never materialized.

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