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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on December 12, 1999. Used by permission.




Library access is turning into a loud issue

TOWN OF WALLKILL: It has a golf course. But a library? Well, that's another story.

By April Hunt
The Times Herald-Record

The town has a mall. It has a golf course. It has two highways.
What it doesn't have is a library.
And it doesn't look like it will.
A three-hour Town Board meeting on Thursday dominated by residents wanting library access brought with it personal attacks, desperate pleas and sometimes vicious criticism of local officials.
But no solution.
"I am in favor of everyone to have access to a library and books," said board member Joan Wolfe. "At this point, I think there is neglect on behalf of the Pine Bush school district, for not fighting to get into the library the way Minisink (Valley) did."
Roseanne Sullivan, a Pine Bush school board member, has led the charge for the town to ink a deal with the library system. The district is operating under an austerity budget.
Supporters of library access presented about a thousand letters to the board Thursday night, asking for quick action. Two of the town's county legislators, Jeff Berkman and Mike Paduch, also urged a solution.
The session erupted into shouting and applause several times. The sides appeared to be speaking different languages.
"I don't understand the audacity of this town board," said resident Connie Squillace.
About 16,000 residents will lose their borrowing privileges starting Jan. 1, under a new state law that mandates only municipalities and agencies can sign contracts for those services. In the past, individuals outside library districts could buy access.
Town officials have known about the new law for more than a year.
They contend that the 8,000 people in town who already pay for library service through their school taxes would be doubly taxed if the town pays out any money and have refused to sign an agreement, putting Wallkill in a distinct minority.
Of the 1.3 million New York residents who live outside library districts, all but about 225,000 live in municipalities that have contracts for service, said Jim Farrell, who is overseeing the new law with the state Department of Education.
Those who signed contracts include Minisink Valley schools in Western Orange County. Residents in three of the district's five towns would have been without any access without a deal.
Angry Wallkill residents note that deal when they press the Town Board. And several times they questioned the board's priorities in a meeting tinged with irony because of several actions involving the taxpayer-funded town golf course.
Supervisor Tom Nosworthy, responding to a resident's questions, said he "formerly" had a library card and does not play golf.
"I am so surprised, because the golf course is very, very popular," Lois Ruckert, a said to raucous applause and laughter.
Outgoing board member John Ward tried several times to introduce resolutions that he said would have provided money for a deal. No one on the board would second his motions.
"I think it could be done (now) if the Town Board wanted to," Ward said. "But it appears they don't want to do it. Again."


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