PY School Board OKs vote on library expansion

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
This drawing shows the original library (in red), and how the proposed expansion will be organized.

The Penn Yan School Board has authorized the Penn Yan Public Library to hold a public referendum on April 22 for voters to decide whether the library board can borrow up to $7.8 million to expand the public library on Main Street.

During the discussion about the resolution to approve the special meeting, board member Michael Van Wormer said voting on the resolution was “bothersome” because while he doesn’t support the library project, he doesn’t oppose it either. He said he wanted to make it clear that the school board wasn’t voting to support the project, but, as required by State Education Department procedures, the school board is simply allowing the library board to have a meeting for the public vote.

“I’m not real crazy about opening the taxpayers up to more taxes, but on the other hand, we have control of the process,” he said.

Penn Yan Public Library Director Lynn Overgaard, along with library board members Richard Stewart and Marty Roberts, gave a presentation on the proposed project before the school board voted on the resolution.

But before the presentation, school district resident Bill Burg told the school board he would like to see the public library project vote be held at the same time as the annual school budget vote, set for mid-May.

Overgaard said the project’s schedule dictates when the vote has to take place. If the voters approve the bond resolution, construction can start as early as January 2009.

During her presentation, Overgaard said, “The community has shown us over and over they feel the library is a vital service.”

Roberts told the school board members the library board also plans to seek grants and other funding to apply to the construction project.

Overgaard said the most it would cost school district taxpayers is an additional 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of property valued at $100,000 in the Penn Yan School District would pay no more than an additional $48 in taxes for the project.

The library was built in the early 1900s with funding from Andrew Canegie. An addition in 1982 expanded it to its current configuration. In the late 1990s the library board purchased land on Pleasant Street, off South Avenue, where a new structure could be built, but the public did not support that plan.

The library board considered moving the library to space in the Lake Street Plaza. Public reaction to both of those plans was negative.

The public library serves the residents of the Penn Yan School District.

The resolution was unanimously approved by all school board members present. Board members Judy Kirk, Nancy Scher and Deb Warren were not present.

School Board member Kathy Guenther, who offered the resolution, is listed as a member of a public library strategic planning committee which adopted a three year strategic plan in December 2005. That plan does not mention a building project.

School Board member Nancy Scher’s husband Marc, is a member of the library board.

The library’s annual budget, approved by voters, is just over $528,000.