OPL supporters to picket Vernon Town Board tonight (Nov. 6)

Submitted by Rick Kinsella

Friends and supporters of Oneida Public Library (OPL) will be gathering to picket at the Town Board of Vernon meeting scheduled for 7:00pm on November 6th. The library supporters are frustrated that the Town Board members have so-far refused to follow through on their legal responsibility to facilitate the financing of OPL’s voter approved new library project.

The $6.117 Million project was approved by voters in the OPL District, a Special Legislative District Public Library, in March of 2015. Under Chapter 493 of the Laws of New York State, the municipalities with properties within OPL District are required to approve the bonding resolutions needed to finance the construction such projects. “The approval of bonding resolutions is considered a ministerial act under the law, this means the municipalities do not have any discretion regarding the design, scope, or cost of a project approved by public referendum” said Rick Kinsella, President of the OPL Board of Trustees. “Chapter 493 says “shall” and the Town Boards of Vernon and Verona have been holding us up since August of 2015.”

Following the refusal of Vernon and Verona to follow their legal responsibilities, OPL filed an Article 78 Petition seeking a court order compelling the towns to follow the law. In August 2017, Acting Supreme Court Justice Donald F. Cerio, Jr. ordered the towns to approve the required bonding resolutions and facilitate the financing of OPL’s project within 30 days. He also ruled that the towns had not presented any legal argument justifying their failure to act and he dismissed all of the arguments that were presented by the towns as irrelevant. Judge Cerio noted that even if those arguments had been relevant, it was doubtful that the towns had legal standing to raise them, and, even if the towns did have standing to raise them, they would had to have done so before July 2015.

The Towns have since filed a notice to appeal Judge Cerio’s ruling which temporarily suspends the 30-day orders. The arguing of an appeal will further delay the project at least until the Summer of 2018 although there is little doubt about the outcome.

“All we want is for the Towns to stop their unnecessary delays, delays that are costing everyone. We just want our library built, a new building is needed and it will be a major asset for our community,” said Dawn Krupiarz, an original member of the community task force that planned the new building and organized the capital campaign to support its financing.

Patricia Albaugh, OPL Trustee and community awareness organizer said “The delay caused by the Towns’ refusal to obey the law has been very expensive for the building project and the taxpayers in the OPL District. Construction costs have increased by more than 10% during the hiatus which means we will be building less of a facility, with fewer amenities and features with the $6.117 Million approved in 2015.”

Kinsella added, “we have been informed by our Financial Advisor that because of the increases in  nterest rates, the continued delay will ultimately cost taxpayers an extra $1.25 Million over the 30 years of payment.” That works out to an additional cost of $1,250 a day that taxpayers will be paying as a result of the delays by the Towns.

Another member of the OPL community awareness group, Robert Wilkins, also noted that OPL has been successful over several years in obtaining New York State Library Construction Grants. “The trouble is, if we don’t begin construction on the project before March 31, 2018, OPL will have to return over $150,000 to the state and we lose our eligibility to receive a similar pending grant for over $82,000. That will also unnecessarily add to the taxpayers’ burdens.”

The OPL District includes all of the City of Oneida, and portions of the Towns of Lincoln and Lenox in Madison County, and portions of the Towns of Vienna, Vernon and Verona in Oneida County. The boundaries of the OPL District match the boundaries of the Oneida City School District. Only property owners with taxable properties in the OPL District will be asked to pay the special tax needed to pay for the project. However, all property owners in the Towns of Vernon and Verona are having to pay the legal costs for the Towns to continue delaying the project. It is estimated that Vernon and Verona taxpayers have already paid $50,000 to $60,000 in legal expenses and may spend that much again if they continue with their appeal.

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