Library officials refute accusations of lack of transparency and locking the public out of decision-making
Civic leaders within the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library district expressed concern for the library administration’s transparency during the preliminary process of discussing renovations of the current facility, relocation options and the recent acquisition of Mastic Beach Village Hall.
One of the main points that representatives from Manor Park and Mastic Park civic associations made note of focused on the way in which the options were presented at the June 17 monthly meeting. A letter from the community library was mailed to each residence within the district informing the public of the meeting and requesting input.
Raymond Keegan, president of the Manor Park Civic Association, perceived that the public was bound to the options suggested by the library.
“It was billed as ‘let the community tell us what they want in a library,’” Keegan said. “It was not that. They already had their plan when you walked in the door. It was really more of a rallying session for what they have already decided to do.”
Setting up shop on a plot granted by the Town of Brookhaven to the library at the previous Links at Shirley Golf Course location off William Floyd Parkway was mentioned as the top option for relocation of the main facility. Other locations like the vacant bowling alley across the street were suggested by the public. However, the asking price for the bowling alley was outside the bounds of legal acquisition by the library considering its appraisal. The library is legally bound from purchasing a parcel for higher than 10 percent beyond the appraisal price.
“That building would have to have been torn down,” said Joe Maiorana, president of the library board. “So whatever you build there in addition to the acquisition of property and demolition would have been more. At the Links, Brookhaven Town was giving us up to five acres. We didn't have to acquire anything, and it was virgin land.”
Library director Kerri Rosalia said that the public has been informed sufficiently and that several meetings have occurred in recent months to ensure that those residents who would like to contribute to the conversation could and still can.
“We could not be trying harder to communicate,” Rosalia said. “We started with a community leaders meeting in the spring. We invited everybody who is involved with civics, chambers of commerce, religious institutions and service organizations. Everyone was invited, where we went through some of these options initially and said, ‘do you have any advice for us? Please bring the information back to the people in your organizations and help us spread the word and get them to come to our board meetings and get some interest going.’”
Maiorana also commented upon civic leaders’ concern for the library’s transparency.
“Just as soon as we were moving toward those options, we didn't even wait to schedule a special meeting,” he said. “We specially-noticed our regularly scheduled meeting to get information to the public just as soon as the board had it, so accusations of lack of transparency are particularly insulting.”
Maiorana said that the board is now leaning closer toward a full renovation of the current facility.
“We're going to hold a few more meetings, but it appears more likely that we're considering a substantial renovation of this building if that is what the community wants,” he said.
If such is decided, there will be a reduction in service from the library. The library did, however, recently buy the Mastic Beach Village Hall on Neighborhood Road for $820,000 and some of the service can be salvaged through the accelerated preparation for use of the building. Additionally, the property has twice the allotted parking than the current main facility on William Floyd Parkway.
A press release announcing the library’s purchase mentions that the property was bought for $100,000 below the appraisal price, though there was no mention of the figure $820,000 or that the property was appraised at $920,000. Upon being informed that this was the case in an interview with The LI Advance, Rosalia reworked the press release to enhance clarity of such.
“It is not like it was purposefully omitted,” she said.
Lastly, civic leaders pointed out that the letter sent to homes informing of the June 17 meeting featured an image of the front entrance of the main building on William Floyd Parkway that shows mold buildup on the brick archway. Since the archway has since been cleaned, civic leaders are concerned that this older picture was chosen for a reason.
“They’re making it seem worse than it actually is,” said Gladys Rech of the Mastic Park Civic Association.
Rosalia said that mold on the archway is not relevant to the major renovation work involving asbestos removal and steel and wiring replacement. Maiorana made note of the maintenance and upkeep of the library that is necessary to keep the facility looking as best it can.
“I think that is why it is hard to convince the public that we are in such dire need,” Maiorana said. “We do a good job of making our facility as presentable as possible. We maintain our building and try to make it look better than it is because that is what the community deserves. As long as we're here and we can stay open here, we want to give them the best possible facility.
“I could see a different library board in a different location trying to make their facility look rundown. I have heard of things happening, and they do. But that is not how we want to operate here, so we do the best that we can with our existing facility.”
The previous ‘MMS Library Announces Remediation’ from the June 20 article stated that the library’s capital reserves would be used for renovation of the current building. Capital reserves were used for the purchase of Mastic Beach Village Hall. The article also stated that the library purchased Mastic Beach Village Hall for $100,000. The property was purchased for $820,000, which was $100,000 less than its appraisal, and that a Sandpebble Builders representative gave a presentation to the public at the June 17 meeting. A third-party hire gave the presentation. The article also stated that there was discussion of demolishing the current building and rebuilding on the same property. This option was not up for discussion.