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Apr 5, 2017 10:48 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Taxpayers Reject $9.9 Million Library Referendum

The Hampton Bays Library bond referendum vote failed on Tuesday night. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Apr 6, 2017 2:29 PM

For the second time in 10 months, Hampton Bays taxpayers have rejected a multimillion-dollar plan that would have financed the complete overhaul of their Ponquogue Avenue library.

The latest proposal, a $9.9 million bond referendum, failed, 571-336, on Tuesday, according to library officials. If approved, the bond would have paid for the gutting and renovation of the current single-story facility as well as the acquisition of a neighboring lot for additional parking.

Tension immediately filled the library’s main programming room after the polls closed at 9 p.m. and six representatives of the Suffolk County Board of Elections began counting the pink ballots. Members of the library’s Board of Trustees huddled near the door, sharing their opinions with one another over the sound of shuffling papers.

A half hour later, Anna Rojas, the Hampton Bays School District clerk, gave the disheartening news: the bond referendum had failed again.

“We’re disappointed with the results, but the voters spoke and the message was clear,” Hampton Bays Library Director Susan LaVista said after the results were announced. “What more can I say?”

David Zimmerman, president of the library’s Board of Trustees, shared that sentiment. “We’re very disappointed—let’s put it that way,” he said, noting that he will discuss possible options for the facility with board members at a future meeting.

“The turnout was good … ” Mr. Zimmerman continued. “I wasn’t sure [what to expect], really. Given the bad weather, it’s hard to tell. But as far as what we do next—that’s to be decided down the road.”

The board was asking taxpayers to approve the referendum to finance extensive updates to the library, work that would have included designing a completely new floor plan for the 20,000-square-foot single-story building. Additional work called for a new roof, the addition of insulation throughout the building, and the installation of an energy-efficient heating and cooling system. Included in the projected costs was a proposed purchase of an adjoining half-acre lot at 3 Argonne Road for $390,000, and using the land to provide a few dozen additional parking spaces for patrons.

If the bond had been approved, the library tax rate would have climbed about 18 cents, to approximately 77 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an estimated 30-percent increase. Therefore, a person with a house assessed at $350,000 and now paying about $201 in library taxes would have paid an extra $64 a year for the length of the bond to finance the work.

Tuesday night’s vote was the second time in less than a year that Hampton Bays taxpayers voted down a bond referendum to update the library. They rejected a previous and more expensive $15.8 million bond referendum in June that, if approved, would have financed the demolition of the current library and the construction of a new two-story building in its place. That measure failed 719-507 in a vote held on June 14, 2016.

Board members had been discussing possible renovations to the library since the end of 2014, and first shared their ideas with the public in the spring of 2015—the same time they began soliciting comments and recommendations from library patrons 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.

Using the feedback, Victor Canseco, owner of Sandpebble Builders in Southampton, presented the public with seven different scenarios before library officials chose one—which appeared to have the most public support based on their meetings—to put up for a vote. The referendum failed in June and, a short time later, library officials started working on a new plan.

Library officials appeared to be less transparent with their plans the second time around, according to the estimated two dozen residents who attended a hastily called informational meeting in March—held exactly one week before the originally scheduled vote. That vote, however, was postponed to this Tuesday due to bad weather.

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"Using the feedback, Victor Canseco, owner of Sandpebble Builders in Southampton, presented the public with seven different scenarios before library officials chose one—which appeared to have the most public support based on their meetings—to put up for a vote.

Apparently not.
By sharkbait (32), Hampton Bays on Apr 11, 17 12:59 PM
Where are all the comments?
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Apr 11, 17 1:45 PM
OK - so there is almost the same article with the comments.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Apr 12, 17 9:07 AM
Where did the article go? Seems like it was taken down. That's weird.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Apr 16, 17 1:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
By BOReilly (135), Eastport on Apr 16, 17 6:05 PM