Effort To Save Library Branches Gets No Action From Township Committee

Elected officials tell residents that they have no control over the Library Board's potential decision to close the Navesink, Lincroft and Bayshore branches of the township library system.

Middletown residents who are urgently seeking to stop the shutdown of the Navesink, Bayshore and Lincroft library branches came to the Township Committee meeting room Monday night hoping for assistance, but checked out empty-handed. 

Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger, 2012 mayor Tony Fiore and former Library Board Commissioner and Committeeman Kevin Settembrino listened to the ideas, outrage and pleas from community members, but repeatedly suggested the campaign belongs in front of the Library Board, because the governing body has no role in its decision.

"We want to have an open dialogue," said Michael Winchell, the advocate for the Navesink Library Branch. "We're asking for your engagement." 

Winchell had come to the meeting not to spar over the hotly contested financials that prompted the township to issue a detailed statement about the library funding situation earlier in the day, partly in response to opinion columns and comments on Patch, but to make the point that the branches serve as beloved community centers in the 60-mile square township, and anchor distinct neighborhoods. 

He said that a committee of citizens wants to propose the idea of keeping the branches open at reduced hours, and one shared full-time librarian, on a $100,000 budget -- one third of the current allocation and staff.  

He asked if the township's financial experts could help review the balance sheets to find the funding, because  The potential closures are noted on the MTPL.org website

"This is a new [library] board, not equipped to deal with an austerity budget," he said. But the elected officials said the board had the benefit of professional guidance from its executive director and attorney. 

If allowed to close, the Lincroft branch would revert to the Middletown Board of Education, the Navesink branch would return to the Duryea-Navesink Library Association, and the Bayshore branch in Port Monmouth would be under the township's control because it is a township building.

Superintendent of Schools William O. George said that the library branch situation would be one of the issues discussed at a shared services meeting with the township, to be held sometime before Feb. 20. Both the Navesink and Lincroft branches are situated near elementary schools. 

As for the Bayshore branch, Township Administrator Tony Mercantante said the township understood that the residents of the storm-ravaged section of that part of town have a special need for computer and Internet access.

Though no official decisions have been made yet, the township could decide to utilize the two-story structure for township offices.

"This has already been discussed: If we do decide to use it any way...we would continue to utilize that buiding and we would make computer terminals available to the public -- no matter what we decide to use it for," said Mercantante. 

bd February 07, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Yeah but----math is hard!!!!
j February 07, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Time to do the math on the arts center and see how it is bleeding our tax dollars.
Legion February 08, 2013 at 01:55 AM
07748, I agree with you there, but don't equate the Library and the MAC because one has a $3.4 million annual revenue source and one does not, so they represent entirely different situations. How much does the Senior Center cost taxpayers every year? The Tonya Keller Community Center? Certainly tax dollars spent on recreation need to be assessed, but the Library is quite different.
j February 08, 2013 at 01:45 PM
Obviously our legislators understand the importance of a Free Public Library System by enacting a funding mechanism. For this town to have spent millions of dollars on a building that was ill suited to be converted into an arts center has proven to be a major financial disaster. A few years back the Independent newspaper quoted the then twp. administrator as to the cost of the art center. I believe the number he stated was 9 to 11 million dollars. The debt service, utility costs, salaries for this project are draining tax dollars to please a very small group of residents. I am not opposed to the idea of an arts center but this project was never well thought out and is costing us far more than the library or the recreational programs you mentioned. Soon the taxpayers will learn how renting out Croydon Hall will not be the windfall of income for the town we have been told it would be.
Tony February 09, 2013 at 11:49 PM
There are a lot of interesting facts here in this discussion. Has anyone a justification for the $500,000.00 that was transferred from the library to the township, I believe it was in 2011?


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