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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on February 19, 2000. Used by permission.



Temporary library service soon to end for hundreds in Wallkill

TOWN OF WALLKILL: The Town Board and legislators are taking up the library issue again.

By Letitia M. Campbell
The Times Herald-Record

Katie Hutchinson returned "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" to the Thrall Library Thursday. She isn't finished with the novel. She hasn't written the book report her seventh-grade teacher wants. But she had no choice.

The Hutchinsons' family library card expires Sunday.

"We only have a few copies in the school library, and there are a lot more students than books available," said Katie, 13.

For hundreds of Wallkill residents who bought temporary library service last year on a household-by-household basis, time is running out. And that has politicians in the hot seat. The Wallkill Town Board met with representatives of the Ramapo-Catskill Library System and the Thrall Library board Thursday night to look for solutions to a problem that is becoming increasingly pressing.

Under a state law that took effect Jan. 1, individuals can no longer pay fees to join a library if they live outside its taxing district. About 16,000 Wallkill residents are in that position. But 3,000-4,000 of them receive service through a deal between the RCLS and the Minisink Valley schools. The rest live in the Pine Bush and Valley Central school districts in Wallkill.

In December, the Wallkill Town Board turned down a contract for temporary service offered by the Thrall Library. Thursday, the library repeated the offer.

"We have to offer the same deal to you as to Minisink," said Thrall Library Board President Richard Bell. For $60,000, the town could purchase library service for its unserved residents for six months, Bell said. The library would throw in three months free service.

Town Board members responded without enthusiasm to the library board's offer. Still, they said the matter is urgent.

"We need to get those services for the people," said board member Joan Wolfe.

Meanwhile, state legislators are scrambling to iron out several long-term solutions.

In the next two weeks, Sen. William Larkin, R-C-Cornwall-on-Hudson, and Assemblyman Howard Mills, R-C-Town of Wallkill, plan to introduce legislation to create a special tax district for the part of Wallkill without library service. There is also talk of creating an expanded Thrall Library District, which could include Middletown, Wallkill and surrounding municipalities. Both pieces of legislation are being drafted, according to a spokesperson for Larkin's office. Mills called the plan for a unified district "very speculative" and pointed to a host of details left to be negotiated.

Assemblyman Jacob E. Gunther III, D-C-Forestburgh, said he would support a unified district. "The end goal should be that all people that have access and use the library pay an equal amount. In my opinion that would be best served if there were a unified library district."

On Thursday, Gunther and county legislator Jeffrey Berkman met with representatives of the Middletown school board, the Thrall Library Board and the Ramapo-Catskill Library System for more than two hours behind closed doors to discuss the possibility of an expanded Thrall Library District.


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