Oneida Library wins suit against towns of Vernon and Verona

Oneida Public Library

Last Thursday, Acting Supreme Court Justice Donald F. Cerio, Jr., issued a Supplemental Decision and Order in the case of the Oneida Public Library District v. the Town Boards of the Town of Vernon and the Town of Verona that directs the two town boards to pass the library’s bond resolution to support construction of the new library facility within 30 days.

In brief, Judge Cerio found that the town boards acted improperly according to state law when they voted against the bonding resolution that the OPL submitted to them in April 2015. In effect, he annulled the decisions by the towns of Vernon and Verona and ordered the town boards to approve the original bonding resolution submitted by the OPL within 30 days.

OPL Board of Trustees President, Rick Kinsella, said that he is “very hopeful that the library will be able to work cooperatively and quickly with the towns and City of Oneida in the OPL’s District to move the proposed construction of our new library building forward. We are concerned that construction costs and interest rates have increased considerably since the August 2015 votes by the town boards of Vernon and Verona. At this date, we will not be able to include all of the features and amenities that we originally planned, since the total cost of the construction must remain the same as it was stated in the public referendum back in March 2015.”

Kinsella noted that when the town boards approve the bond resolution, the library will be able soon after to put the project out for bidding before the end of this year.

“Our architects at Holmes, King, Kalquist and Associates will have to hustle to review and revise the specifications as some of the building codes have changed,” Kinsella said, “but they are eager to resume the project and bring it to completion.”

Michele Ryan, director of the OPL, said, “I am just so pleased that we will finally have the space to better accommodate our existing services and the capacity to serve many more people and to develop new and exciting programming and activities that will support life-long learning.”

OPL trustee and Town of Vernon resident, Kathy Wojciechowski, noted, “I understand that town board members did get negative feedback from some members of the community about the building project, but this is a democracy. The voters in the library district approved the project, so let’s put all of our resources into building the best library possible instead of paying for more legal expenses that will only delay the project.”

Voters in the OPL District approved the proposed library construction in a March 3, 2015, referendum by a vote of 576 for and 455 against. The bond anticipation notes issued by the municipalities in the OPL District to pay for construction will be paid off through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan to the OPL upon completion of the project. The principal and interest on the loan will be paid by OPL District taxpayers over 30 years and will amount to about 10 cents per day ($36.50 a year) for the average property in the district.

Legislation establishing the Oneida Public Library Special Library District was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor George Pataki in 1997, and it was ratified by district voters in a 1997 referendum. The enabling legislation grants the OPL the authority to petition its voters and, with their approval, to require the municipalities in which the Library District lies to collect taxes on properties that lie within the District and issue bonds on its behalf. The OPL District covers the same area as the Oneida City School district, including the City of Oneida and portions of the towns of Lenox, Lincoln, Vernon, Vienna and Verona.

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