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Jun 7, 2016 4:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: $15.8 Million Library Bond Referendum Fails In Hampton Bays

Library officials are holding a bond referendum vote on June 14. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Jun 15, 2016 9:21 AM

UPDATE: Tuesday, 10:40 p.m.:

The $15.8 million bond referendum failed, 719-507, in Tuesday’s vote.

“It’s a great disappointment,” said Ms. O’Keefe. “The board worked really hard and the director worked really hard.”

Ms. LaVista, who also expressed her disappointment Tuesday night, said the Board of Trustees does not have a “Plan B” yet. The next step, she said, is to sit down with Ms. O’Keefe and the rest of the library board to discuss why the referendum was voted down and what they should do next.


Hampton Bays Public Library officials are nearing the end of a 14-month journey, and where they finally end up will be determined this Tuesday, June 14.

That is the day when registered voters will decide the fate of a $15.8 million bond referendum that, if approved, will clear the way for both the demolition of the current Ponquogue Avenue library and the construction of a new two-story facility in its place. It also would mean voters would sign off on the purchase of an adjoining half-acre lot that will be primarily utilized for additional parking.

Voters can cast their ballots from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the library on Tuesday.

The finalized plan was selected from a list that originally included seven different renovation options, the most basic of which would have financed only basic upkeep costs.

If approved, the average Hampton Bays resident, with a property assessed at $350,000, will pay an additional $119 per year in library taxes for the life of the 20-year bond, according to library officials.

The library district tax rate is expected to climb from about 59 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to 93 cents per $1,000—a 57-percent increase. Therefore, an individual whose property is assessed at $350,000 can expect to pay about $326.80 in library taxes next year. That person is currently paying around $207.50.

The $15.8 million proposal calls for a new 24,000-square-foot building to be constructed on the 1.3-acre lot that sits at the corner of Ponquogue Avenue and Argonne Road West. With the acquisition of the adjoining half-acre lot, which now features a house, the new library would boast approximately 100 parking spaces, or about three dozen more than now offered to patrons. The library is in contract the buy the adjoining property, but will sign the required documentation only if Tuesday’s bond referendum passes.

“Right now, there are plenty of times where the lot is entirely full,” Hampton Bays Public Library Director Susan LaVista said, noting that one of the library board’s biggest concerns is offering visitors additional parking to address constant congestion issues. “And it will be safe, too.”

If the referendum is approved, library officials intend to immediately begin the search for an architect to design the new building, and will also schedule more community meetings so patrons can offer ideas on what the new interior should look like. Once that process is complete, the architect would have to present plans to the public and the library would have to complete an environmental review of the proposal to meet the State Environmental Quality Review Act guidelines.

Ms. LaVista said she expects those steps to take about a year to complete, meaning that the demolition of the current library—which would be completed in multiple phases—would likely not begin until 2017. The demolition work, she explained, would be completed in phases, allowing the library to continue operating from a section of the current building for some time. The new library is not expected to be finished until 2019 at the earliest.

If the referendum is rejected, Ms. LaVista said the library board would have to come up with an alternate plan.

“We haven’t really discussed that—there is no Plan B at this time,” she added. “I think we will have to really sit back and assess, and we’ll obviously have to come up with another plan … We will need a little time to assess why it went down and take it from there.”

Hampton Bays Public Library Board President Madeline O’Keefe said she thinks her board did all in its power to keep the public involved in the process, noting that the plan now on the table is the product of multiple public meetings held over the past year. She estimated that library officials hosted or were invited to speak during at least 30 different events over that time.

“The library board and I believe we have done everything to get the community educated regarding everything a building referendum would encompass,” Ms. O’Keefe said. “We answered very many, many difficult and rewarding questions from the people who attended our many sessions.”

“We’re very hopeful that it’s going to pass, but I’m not going to make a prediction because you never know,” said David Zimmerman, vice president of the library board. “We got a lot of feedback at meetings and the project itself has been crafted with a lot of community input …

“I know some people are against the project,” he continued. “I think that’s a little short-sighted. I think this is an investment for the community.”

Board members had been discussing possible renovations to the library since the end of 2014, and first shared their idea with the public in the spring of 2015—the same time they began soliciting comments and recommendations from library users and hamlet residents. At those meetings, attendees asked that their new library offer more educational space, an upgraded heating and air conditioning system, and additional parking.

Based on that feedback, Victor Canseco, owner of Sandpebble Builders in Southampton, presented seven different scenarios, ranging in price from a few million to $14.4 million, at the end of last summer. Library officials ultimately picked the option that will appear on Tuesday’s ballot, which was the second most expensive option of the seven at the time. The estimated price of the project grew by $2.5 million earlier this year when officials decided to also buy the adjoining property to create more parking. The $14.4 million option that had been on the table called for selling the current library and building a new facility elsewhere in Hampton Bays.

With the vote looming early next week, library officials are cautiously optimistic of their chances, noting that they tried their best to keep the community involved in all steps of the process.

“We’re looking forward to next week and we hope for the best,” Ms. LaVista said. “The community will decide … We’ve done more than our due diligence to get the word out.”

Ms. O’Keefe agreed, adding that she hopes the library’s regular users and supporters take the time to cast their ballots on Tuesday.

“I hope that the community at large comes out so that the library can get a true reading of what our community wants as far as whether they are ready for a new library, or whether they want this to be an immediate plan,” she said.

If the bond referendum passes, library officials would then close on an adjacent property on 3 Argonne Road, which is owned by John McKenna, for $390,000. Mr. McKenna, whose primary residence is in East Northport, agreed to sell his Hampton Bays property to the library because his mother always loved the institution, Ms. O’Keefe said. The home is typically rented to a pair of nuns who plan to relocate in the future.

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Please get out and Vote NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pass on the word to all your neighbors.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jun 7, 16 7:57 PM
2 members liked this comment
$128 dollars per year for 20 years? Not including the regular Library tax levy which will absolutely explode with additional staff, pensions and security?

Hampton Bays residents are smarter than that. Vote NO!

By Peter35 (1), Hampton Bays on Jun 8, 16 8:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
NO WAY! Isn't the middle school compound accommodating enough????
By T818 (11), Hampton Bays on Jun 8, 16 7:21 PM
Vote No! Vote No! Vote No! This project is ludicrous. This is a un necessary
financial burden on our community. We already have one of the highest
school tax on the east end of Long Island.
By Jimion (129), Hampton Bays on Jun 8, 16 7:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
To: 27East.com

Please put this article up on the front page (and keep it there until June 14th), we need people to know about this vote - this article is buried and only a few readers have seen it.

Put it on the front page and you'll see hundreds of comments.

Thank you.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 16 10:23 AM
2 members liked this comment
Nice common sense idea that would be a public service, but I very much doubt The Press is going to do that. See their editorial in favor of the project.
They say it's worth it to spend $15,800,000 (or more as costs go up) for a facility that will last 50 years. Really? My online calculator tells me that that's the same as an extra $316,000 a year for those 50 years, before interest.
Recall the total expansion is supposed to be 4,000 sq. ft. or $4,000 a sq. ft! I wonder if Trump Tower cost ...more
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Jun 9, 16 6:01 PM
2 members liked this comment
My question is how is this going to affect Commercial Business taxes. We are all aware that property taxes on commercial land in HB are outragerous. There has been debates about keeping chain businesses out of HB (ie; the CVS- which I am in favor of keeping out also) yet these are the businesses that can afford the 65,000 dollar taxes on that property. There was mention of the raise in taxes for homes, but no mention of how this is going to affect businesses. Already high commercial taxes will become ...more
By jasmine (9), sh on Jun 9, 16 11:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
So spread the word - tell everyone you know to get out and vote NO!

No doubt about it, this is the most ridiculous idea ever proposed and I am shocked that it could have even gotten this far. My calendar says 2016, the Library's must be saying 1916.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 16 12:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Did anyone else find the editorial in today's Press insulting? I am a well-educated well-informed voter that actually attended 2 of the forums with several other well-educated, well-informed voters. I have made an educated and informed decision to vote NO. The Library needs TLC inside and out. The building needs to be updated and repaired estimated at the original $1 million. The programs need to be streamlined. It is disconcerting that the Board has let the Library fall into such disrepair ...more
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 16 9:43 PM
4 members liked this comment
Many taxpayers in the Westhampton area have been requesting that the Westhampton Not-Free Library move to an elected, not appointed, board of trustees. (Visit www.wflelectedboard.org for more information.)

Just to note: Hampton Bays' library trustees are also appointed.

Hampton Bays Library along with Westhampton are association libraries. Though funded by millions of tax dollars, appointed trustees appoint other trustees, as needed. Only 6 out of 19 Suffolk County association ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on Jun 11, 16 1:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Please get out and Vote NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pass on the word to all your neighbors.

Then let's figure out how to oust these "trustees" - they can't be trusted.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jun 14, 16 3:19 PM
Hasta La Vista
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 15, 16 5:59 AM
This is B.S. Don't put any of this on Susan LaVista! It wasn't her plan!

The appointed Board of Trustees were the ones who pushed this, and Ms. LaVista merely discharges their agenda.

She doesn't make policy, she simply discharges what the Board determines.

For you to put any of this on her just shows how uninformed you are!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 15, 16 5:11 PM
Congratulations to the resident/taxpayers of Hampton Bays for voting this
ludicrous library project down. We must keep vigilant, because the library
trustees will be making another attempt at the project.
By Jimion (129), Hampton Bays on Jun 15, 16 6:52 AM
guess the taxpayers are just tapped out. seems they are satisfied with the library as is-and don't feel the need for a library palace. sorry queen la vista. just fix the damn roof
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jun 15, 16 7:12 AM
How is it possible that the Trustees are so out of touch with the taxpayers of HB? Fix the building - fix the programs - move on.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Jun 15, 16 8:08 AM
4 members liked this comment
Sag harbor should have said no to the library construction. Over budget, mismanaged, no clerk of the works to insure that the construction was correct, no viable way to verify the numerous change orders, extensive delays, substantial additional funds raised from residents to correct all mistakes and lack of oversight by a incompetent board and library management.
Hampton Bays taxpayers were smart to reject this.
By patriot50 (42), sag harbor on Jun 15, 16 10:17 AM
May I suggest the trustees sit down with the voters of Hampton Bays and find out what they want from the Library and what they are willing to pay for.I am in vavour of purchasing the adjoining property expand the parking lot and then then review what is the best use of existing building,perhaps the present home on the adjoining lot could be used for library related activeties after the necessary renovations,,,,,,,,,,just saying.I voted against the $16,000,000 project and question if the current ...more
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jun 15, 16 10:46 AM
2 members liked this comment
This was also a referendum on the Board of the library. The chairman of that board, at the least, should heed the voice of the people and resign.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jun 15, 16 12:15 PM
HB Proud posed an astute question: "How is it possible that the Trustees are so out of touch with the taxpayers of HB?"

Perhaps because it's an appointed board and not one elected by the taxpayers?

I live in WHB and in reading the articles on the HBays new library building vote, I do respect the fact that many informational meetings were held. Many WH/WHB taxpayers want an elected board of trustees and we requested a public town hall meeting with the Sufflok Cooperative Library ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on Jun 15, 16 2:51 PM
A good time to discuss the need for an elected board,how much has this folly cost the tax payers...
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jun 15, 16 3:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Great, great news. Stop wasting the money of Hampton Bays residents. Now let's start talking about CUTTING.
By SHPredatorDept (72), Southampton on Jun 16, 16 11:32 AM
How about fundraising!!! No one ever said anything about raising the money needed instead of taxing the people of HB.
By NoreenComenzo (2), Hampton Bays, New York on Jun 21, 16 10:40 AM