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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on June 17, 2000. Used by permission.



Voters get voice in library's direction

ALBANY: State legislators are giving voters the chance to redraw the Thrall Library District.

By Letitia M. Campbell
The Times Herald-Record

Just after the stroke of midnight Thursday, amid the rush of last-minute lawmaking, the New York State Assembly passed a bill that could stretch the Thrall Library District boundaries.

"I am thrilled that our lawmakers have heard us," said Roseanne Sullivan, a Pine Bush School Board member who has spent years advocating for expanded library service, "and that they understand the importance of libraries in all communities."

If approved by voters in March, the district will take in about 11,000 Town of Wallkill residents who live outside established library districts.

"Hopefully this is the beginning of a long-term equitable solution for all the users of the library," said a spokeswoman for Senator Jacob Gunther.

The library issue has been a political quagmire, in part because it involves so many political bodies. In addition to the state legislature, three school boards, three library boards and a small fleet of municipalities have a stake in the matter.

Communication between them hasn't always been smooth.

"Politics is politics," said Thrall Library Director Kevin Gallagher, "and sometimes there's more pushing and shoving than others."

When the Thrall Library Board endorsed the library bill earlier this week, President Richard Bell sent legislators a list of changes he wanted before the matter came up for a vote.

But in Albany, time was short. Assemblyman Howard Mills, one of the bills' co-sponsors, worried that asking for amendments this late in the game would be bad news for the bill. "I said, 'Please don't make too much of a ruckus about the technical changes you want.'"

Technical changes will be made in January.

While the bill solves the library dilemma for the Town of Wallkill, it only provides a partial solution in the Minisink Valley School District, which falls outside of current library districts.

"We're looking for a district wide solution," said Superintendent Mary Bohnen.

Still, legislators and local leaders celebrated victory yesterday.

"We did it," said Jeff Berkman, a county legislator who has worked closely with Gunther on the library issue. "This provides an opportunity for equitable taxation and tax reduction," he said, "and now it goes to the voters for approval."


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