I couldn't attend this meeting myself and have only been able to watch about half of the video below thus far. But thanks to the many articles popping up in the media about the potential closing of these branches and a concerned library patron and MiddletownMike reader named Tara, I've been able to keep abreast of what transpired during the meeting and what has happened since.
Tara was kind enough to share with me her notes from the meeting - which I've posted here - so that when you watch the accompanying video, you'll be able to identify areas of concern:
Many residents made impassioned appeals to keep the libraries open. The young lady whose petition you posted on your blog spoke and mentioned studies where property values of homes within 1/4 mile of a library are higher than those further away. Of course, she also spoke about the many wonderful things the library offers.
A woman, Bernadette Masi, made an appeal for the Bayshore Library. She mentioned how Sandy had water surrounding the library but that it survived. She said, "God spared it from Sandy and now this board might take it away". She also talked about how so many residents of that area are using the computers there to fill out FEMA and insurance claims. Also mentioned was how the Bayshore area schools require homework to be submitted electronically and how many children in that area do not have computers. I was surprised, as were many others, when Vivian Breen commented a little later that nobody was making an appeal on behalf of the Bayshore Branch. She made a mistake saying that! That did not go over very well.
So much to write about but I have to rush! A new member of the board looked at the budget and asked how could the health insurance for 30 full time workers be $800,000 when the annual salaries for the entire staff is $1,600,000!? The new member was told if he had been at the meeting when the CFO explained it he would have known. When a resident asked the board during the public part of the meeting that, since they were at the meeting with the CFO, why don't THEY EXPLAIN IT. New board president, Brock Seibert, then acted in a rude manner to that man. But the man said he had every right to express himself for 5 minutes without being interrupted. Seibert told the new board member to speak to the CFO and/or the town administrator in the morning. A women from Lincroft said, "Let's ask the administrator now! He is sitting in the back row!" Seibert seemed very annoyed and basically ignored the request.
Many people offered to volunteer. Susan O'Neil said the workers union does not want volunteers to take away a job from a paid employee. Michael Vitkansas protested that, saying if people want to volunteer to save money to keep a library open that should be encouraged!
Some people said fundraising. Some people said fundraising does not work. I think those people just don't know how to throw a good party!
Michael Winchell of Duryea Navesink Libray Association spoke and mentioned reduced hours, which I also suggested to the board. He also said he was informed 20 days ago and told to keep it quiet.
Another woman spoke about the claims filed by the library staff. She said she the claims of the employees cost $500 but the township charged the library system $100,000 for the claims!
Vivian Breen said to the residents 'that you should have been taking to the township committee'. Someone said, we would have if we knew what was happening, if the library board did not first post this on Jan 11th, when residents have library cards with contact information. Notices could have been mailed to everyone with a library card.
Steve Monaghan and Michael Convery, along with the board's attorney, seemed the most willing to let the community come up with solutions. So the board voted to delay voting on the budget until Feb 20th. The residents came up with three representatives. One will represent each branch. Each will work among their local fellow residents to get a plan, then each representative will meet with the board to show a planned solution for each library.
Susan O'Neil said she could work to do that but I will mention that she did say that she was surprised how nobody mentioned what a beautiful library the main branch is and how she feels that the main library could become the hub of the community. Sure! Children and seniors will walk from their homes, along Route 35, to get to the hub of the community. How long would it take someone from Navesink, Locust, Lincroft or Bayshore to walk to 'the hub of the community'?
There was objection among the newly appointed Board members, enough that the Board decided to hold off on the closings until other methods of funding could be sourced. The Board selected volunteers from each area of town that has a branch to work with the Director and the Finance Committee on alternate funding, in addition to the portion of property taxes already designated for Library funding.
Here is a copy of the meeting agenda which includes the minutes from the December 18,2012 meeting of the library board.