Dec 29, 2008

Statement re library at 12/4 Town Board work session

It is now two years since the deal was made to move the library to the Park and we don't yet have a final resolution for the site location, let alone be anywhere close to breaking ground.

The proposed move would have tremendous impacts on the town and certainly on the hamlet of South Salem, and yet there has been no attempt to solicit public comment.

Though the library is operated as an independent entity, the majority of the funding of course comes from town taxes. Significant funds have already been spent. The details of the financial arrangements for the project have been reported to some extent I believe, but are not readily available for the public to review on either the town or library websites as far as I can see. As I understand those, the town has committed to cover some portion of construction overruns. We need to know the magnitude of our exposure, particularly in today's climate.

There is, and always has been, a less costly alternative to the Town Park - expansion at the original site. That alternative was shelved not because of irreconcilable technical obstacles, but due to human factors. It is quite possible that the passage of time may have mitigated those factors and this effective option may be pursued.

We need to know more, but from what I do know, it seems clear to me that keeping the library in South Salem hamlet is the most cost effective path to expansion. Moving it to the park will be costly and is contrary to the hamlet-centered planning philosophy set out in the town Master Plan and to the great preponderance of opinion on modern town planning.

I believe the Town Board therefore has a duty to take up discussion of the current status of the project, review the arrangements and financials, and facilitate a forum to collect resident input, and so I propose that these things be put on the agenda.

12/4/08 Letter to the Editor re AP Fields Commentaries

Certain recent commentaries and letters have asserted that Supervisor Brancati was the "chief advocate" for the Legacy Fund/A.P. Farms proposal, and that he reversed himself by voting "no." In fact, Mr. Brancati worked hard to see that the case for this proposal got a fair airing. To make that happen required that he work with the County at various levels to make sure that preconditions for making the offer were attainable. Only by doing this would we even have had a chance to go through the process and see whether the project might be a net benefit to the town. Would our residents have been satisfied with anything less than such a good faith effort? This was not a case of "good guys" vs. "bad guys" -- it was an example of the supervisor doing his job by exploring all the options and putting them on the table. Mr. Brancati remained objective and uncommitted up until the vote. His statements were always measured, and he made it clear that the decision should be made on merits only. This is not "spin" -- it's all there in the public record.

On the whole, I have found the atmosphere on the town board this past year to be civil and productive. I do not expect us all to agree on everything. Nor do I expect critics to “go easy” on us -- but I do expect their comments to be reality-based, and well intentioned. That has not been the case thus far. I am hopeful that well-meaning colleagues and neighbors will direct the focus back to sensible and objective analysis, constructive ideas and cheers for the many doing the good and hard work.