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* This article first appeared in The Times Herald-Record on April 21, 2001. Used by permission.



Thrall Expansion in Voters Hands

By Jay Stapelton
The Times Herald-Record

An agreement that no new library facilities outside the city will be built for at least five years brought support from City Hall yesterday.
Mayor Joseph DeStefano met with members of the Coalition for Wallkill Library Services and County Legislator Jeff Berkman to discuss his concerns about the Thrall Library District expansion proposal, which will go before voters Tuesday.
DeStefano, who supports the concept of expanding the district to include unserved parts of the Town of Wallkill, had concerns that increased tax revenues more than $400,000 would be spent to build satellite library facilities outside the city. "I'm satisfied," DeStefano said after the meeting. "I would strongly urge people to support it."
Supporters of the proposed expansion point to tax cuts of at least 3 to 4 percent for library service for Middletown School District taxpayers and service for unserved portions of the Town of Wallkill as reason enough to vote for expanding the district.
Library service was lost for 12,000 Wallkill residents after a contract between the town and the library ran out last year. Since then, Berkman, Assemblyman Jacob Gunther (D-C-Forestburgh), the grass-roots coalition and others have lobbied to get library services restored.
On Tuesday, the final decision will be put to voters in the Middletown School District and those living in the Pine Bush, Minisink and Valley Central school districts in Wallkill.
A sparsely attended but locally televised meeting at Wallkill Town Hall on Thursday night culminated several weeks of informational meetings intended to educate voters on the creation of a new library district.
A panel of seven candidates running for positions on the proposed new library board fielded questions on how money will be spent and service provided if the new district is approved. If the expansion doesn't happen, rates for service may go up for those in the current district.
Berkman said it is important to reach a partnership between the Middletown School District and those in Wallkill that don't have a home library.
"We can work together," Berkman said, "to provide library services at a reduced tax rate for Middletown School District residents."


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