By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — MOOERS — Construction on a new Mooers Free Library and community center here has been halted.
Instead, a committee formed by Town Councilman Earl Robinson after the council’s November meeting is exploring different possibilities for the library’s location, according to Mooers Town Supervisor Cory Ross.
The council is scheduled to report back to the Town Council at its January meeting, he said.
Another library committee was formed this past summer to address the same issues, but it met only once and has since gone by the wayside.
Now, two possible locations are being discussed, both of which are on the 6-acre property where the Mooers Town Offices and Fire Department sit.
That complex is L-shaped, with the fire station located in the long arm of the L and Town Offices and courtroom as the shorter arm, toward the back of the property.
The combination library and community center could be built either as an extension of the courtroom, parallel to Route 11, or behind the Town Offices building, as originally planned, Ross said.
Unanimous votes by the Town Council at both the September and October meetings had approved construction of the new facility.
Before the project ground to a standstill, the town had had a soil test done for the new building’s septic system and had also cleared and leveled the construction site, Ross said.
Public outcry prompted big turnouts at council sessions, and the Fire Department previously asked the council to build the library elsewhere or not at all.
Fire officials worry that putting the new building on the Route 11 grounds would take up too much space and therefore threaten their annual Labor Day celebration, which Fire Department President Jeff Menard said is its biggest fundraiser and a popular community event.
Many residents, along with firefighters, Menard said, would like to see renovations made to the current library instead of new construction. The renovations would include adding handicap-accessible restrooms, a ramp and a lift.
But the cost of renovating the current building, built in 1932, is now estimated at $40,000 — more than the overall worth of the property, said Library Director Jackie Madison.
The current library building has been in violation of the new Americans with Disabilities Act since it took effect in March, as it is not handicap accessible.
Had a ramp and lift been installed before then, the renovations would have been more affordable, Madison said.
Ross said he’s not sure why the updates weren’t done before the new regulations took effect.
Menard said multiple attempts dating back to the 1990s were made to renovate the library to make it accessible to all community members.
“The (council) and the library directors had the option of upgrading the facility to be compliant with handicapped regulations, including an addition on the existing property; these options have been repeatedly rejected,” the Fire Department said in a letter sent to Mooers residents.
Ross said the new building would cost about $50,000, but it wouldn’t cost the taxpayers anything because almost all the funding for the project has been secured.
The Mooers Free Library building was declared surplus by the Town Council in June, and a local individual has agreed to buy the building for $20,000, Ross said. The sale is in progress. The buyer will allow the library to stay in its current location until construction on the new building is complete, he said.
Madison obtained a $10,000 grant that can be used for the new facility, Ross said. The town also set aside $24,000 for a new library when former Town Supervisor Rudolph “Rudy” Miller was in office.
With the $20,000 from the sale of the old building, the town will have more than enough to cover costs, Ross said.
“Once we settle on a location, I think everything will move pretty quickly,” he said.
The original plans for the new library put the facility at about 2,000 square feet, an increase of more than 1,200 square feet from the current building’s 726 square feet.
This would provide plenty of room for larger community gatherings and presentations, Madison said, as well as make the library more available to town residents.
The Mooers Free Library is open four days a week for a total of 24 hours.
Ross and Madison hope everyone will be satisfied with the town’s decision about where the new library will be built.
“Hopefully, at the end, everybody will be at peace with the decisions we make, and we can move forward,” Ross said.
— Contributing Writer Miranda Orso added to this report.
TO LEARN MORE
The next meeting of the new Mooers Free Library Council is 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, in the Mooers Town Court room. The session is open to the public.