>The Middletown Library "Unfinished Business": The latest on the $500K transfer, the lot construction, the Lincroft Branch, and other issues.

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

Mike mentioned in a 5/17/11 post that a number of ongoing issues were slated to be discussed at this Wednesday’s 5/18/11 meeting of the Middletown Library Board, which I attended.

One issue concerned the parking lot expansion project. As Mike said, the Board had been told by the town that T&M Engineering would be the engineer for this work. The Board was given no other option or opportunity to compare costs, but will be responsible for paying the bill for these services.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the trustees voiced concern about the use of T&M, pointing out that the Board had not been satisfied with T&M’s services on a prior project. They were told that T&M is the town’s engineer for capital projects for 2011, so to the extent that the lot construction is designated as one of the town’s capital projects this year, T&M will be the engineer. So says the town.

Maser Consulting had been hired by the Library to do initial design work for the lot prior to the town’s taking of funds. That work is complete except for coordination with the engineer of choice.

It wasn’t clear if a decision had been made about who would pay for the actual construction, the Town or the Library. While the lot expansion was “included” in the $500K transfer agreement between the Library and the Township, the question of who would pay was left unanswered. Committman Settembrino’s comment at Wednesday’s meeting that the library would be responsible for “soft costs” (such as the engineering costs) seemed to imply that the library would not be responsible for the “hard costs” for actual construction.

The Library Board is making no assumptions – they are more likely to be on the hook than not. In fact, they haven’t decided to go ahead with any of the work. The Board feels they may not have sufficient funds.

There are still a number of steps and hurdles before the $500K transfer can be made. First, focus groups must be completed and a strategic plan finalized, and a package of materials including those pieces submitted to the State Librarian for approval. Committeman Settembrino said that Town personnel were under the impression that the package would be submitted to the state by the end of May, but Ms. O’Neal pointed out that the Board couldn’t submit the package to the state until the Board passes a resolution that it has filled all the requirements, where 4 out of 5 pieces require the Board’s approval. A decision was made to finalize review of the strategic plan at the Board’s June 15th meeting, in line with Committeeman Settembrino’s request that discussion take place before the Town’s regular meeting on June 20th.

An important point is that there is no guarantee the State Library will give its approval. Ms. O’Neal commented that the State could take issue with the reserve figure in the Library’s audit, where the reserve includes funds from municipal and other sources.

Some other topics discussed at the meeting:

The Lincroft branch is believed to have lead-based paint and asbestos in the walls given the age of the structure. The paint isn’t peeling, and therefore poses no danger. A concern about the asbestos is that it may be in the walls of the front entryway, which has termite damage. So there are costs involved for the inspection and abatement plan in addition to the repair work. An architect will be presenting on this topic at the Board’s June 15th meeting.

There was discussion about the need for either curbs or reflectors or boulders to prevent people from parking on the grass in certain sections of the library’s lot. (I bet you didn’t know that the fancy boulders in the lot aren’t just there for looks. Nope, they’re there to assist you in stopping.) The Board concluded that posts with reflectors would get the job done at a reasonable cost.

Kudos to Eagle Scout Andrew Bloy, who will be allowed to place a collection jar at the Library’s front desk because he has demonstrated considerable community benefit. Allowing the collection effort represents an exception by the Board to Library policy. The Board was impressed with Mr. Bloy’s request letter and community involvement. In fact, they mentioned that after Mr. Bloy learned that planting a medicinal herb garden at a local medical office would not earn him scouting credit, he did it anyway.

The Board discussed a software donation offer by a local company called Comprise Technologies. The software, offered free for six months, is designed to process payments made by credit card. The Board noted that credit cards are being used with increasing frequency for the payment of library fines. Comprise Technologies will be presenting at the Library Board meeting on July 20th. There are ongoing expenditures to be considered, including fees for the software and service, and costs for integration with other library systems. There was also discussion of implementing a charge for credit card payments, but the Board instead opted to request a donation when credit cards are used. The thinking is that folks probably wouldn’t mind rounding up their payment to the next dollar, at least.

22 Comments

Filed under audit, Board of Trustees, budget surplus, Eagle Scout, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, NJ State Library, Susan O'Neal, transfer of funds, unfinished business

22 responses to “>The Middletown Library "Unfinished Business": The latest on the $500K transfer, the lot construction, the Lincroft Branch, and other issues.

  1. >Pig roast. I still waiting for a call.

  2. >Maybe the library board should video/audio record meetings. It would not be smart to enter into any agreement with the township w/o the details in writing. Any chance the library could televise their meetings?If the engineering work has been done by Maser why must T&M do it? More political kickback? Makes no sense especially when the library was not satisfied with T&M on a prior project. The TC can not be trusted, they have proven that time and again. Let's pack the next meeting and ask that Septembrino be removed from the board!

  3. >The library should be concerned with T & M. Just look at the mistakes they made with the Middletown Arts Center.

  4. >You would think everything that could be done to save money would be done.Not with these incompetent clowns on the TC. Roast the five of them !!The monkeys in trees have more common sense.

  5. >Where is this lot construction going to be done at? I didnt think the library had that much property

  6. >Re video/audio recording (5/20/11, 3:49), I did audio record the 5/18 Board meeting, but the sound quality is poor because there is only one microphone in the center of the room and many comments are hard to hear. Individual microphones would be better. I suggested that and was told that the current sound system is actually a big improvement over the last one. Given the low attendance at Board meetings, I doubt the purchase of new equipment is high on the list. I was invited to sit closer. Next time I will.

  7. >I'm sick to death of this narcissistic Library Board that thinks it is owed first class treatment from the taxpayers of the town.Next year's board will have at least two new members, possibly more, as I think that some of the more self important members will resign when they see that the "old guard" is not going to be reappointed, and that their days of free spending on our dime are over.It would be a boon for the town to get rid of this board – or the Library if this board continues to behave like this…

  8. >By the way Mike, it's May 21st.Wasn't Administrator Mercantante supposed to have left by now?Does this mean that your "inside source" lied? Or maybe that your "inside source" if full of s***?Inquiring minds want to know…

  9. >Sorry anon,But I never gave a date for his leaving. All I posted was that he would be leaving by the end on May, which I was told.Seeing how there is another week left in the month, there is still time for his departure.Unless of course you are one those who thought that because it was Judgment Day, Tony and the rest of them were going to be leaving us prematurely.

  10. >I was pretty sure that you said it would be by mid-May, but okay, we'll wait another week.Would your source have any reason to spread false rumors? Maybe he or she have ulterior motives?Why don't you share more about this lying source of yours?

  11. >Anon 6:55 Do you mean the "narcissistic Library Board" that properly planned and set monies aside for improvements to the library or the tc that came in and strong armed monies from the Library? This is the same tc that will now bond monies for these improvements at a greater expense to the taxpayers.The same tc that will not use the engineering work already completed by Maser but will pay their pals at t&m to do the same work again. More expense to the taxpayers."Free spending on our dime"? Proper planning to fund projects is much more accurate. Your free spending comment would be much better applied to the arts center. $10 million bonded debt on the back of the taxpayers and they do not raise enough money to pay the monthly electric bill.BTW our Library was recently recognized by "New Jersey State Librarian Norma Blake honored four New Jersey libraries for conducting outstanding early literacy programs on behalf of their youngest library users and their families during a breakfast at the New Jersey Library Association Annual Conference." (Middletown was one of the four, full article can be viewed in the Middletown Patch). Was the Library recognized by the tc for this accomplishment?There are things that could be done away with in this town, the Library is not one of them."It would be a boon for the town to get rid of this board – or the Library…"Maybe the county could take over the arts center. They could assume millions in bonded debt, pay the staff and sky high utility bills. That would be a much greater savings to the taxpayers, and a boon for this town.Think for yourself and do not drink the political kool-aid.

  12. >Sorry again anon,But that info is in a need to know basis and guess what? You don't need to know.

  13. >Your "source" has played you Mike. The fact that you posted their rumor and it hasn't come true is all I "need to know…"LOL

  14. >To anon, 5/21, 6:55:The Town Committee has made the Library Board out to be the villain in all this, and apparently you’ve bought into it. I’m really not sure what “behavior” you’re talking about, but lack of transparency and free-spending are qualities that more accurately describe our current Town Committee. In contrast to what goes on at Town meetings, the Library trustees openly discuss business in detail, and at length, in front of the public. The Town Committee instead chooses to discuss almost everything behind closed doors. And do you really think that the lucrative no-bid contracts that the Town has doled out are in the taxpayers’ best interest? If you want to shake a finger at someone for squandering your tax dollars, shake it at the Town.The Library trustees are charged with doing what is in the best interest of the Library – our Library. If you ever attend one of their meetings, you would see that they are dedicated to that charge. But as you mentioned, the Board members are appointees, not elected officials. They serve at the pleasure of the Town Committee, who has seen fit to bully them.

  15. >Hey Mike,We can only hope the whole bunch of them ( TC and Mercantante too ) will all be leaving us permanently and that it doesn't take "the end of the world" to accomplish that !!Patience can be a virtue and it won't be the end of the world when they are GONE.IT WILL BE THE DAWN OF A NEW DAY !!

  16. >I guess that some people who support the Library Board here don't really know what they're talking about.Maybe they should take a look at the spending habits of the Library, and then see if they approve of the way that crew has been throwing taxpayer money around…

  17. >to anon 11:47What specific spending by the Library Board do you refer to? Or are you making a broad unsubstantiated comment?

  18. >anon: 11:47 We're waiting for an explanation. If you're saying the Library has wasted tax payer money, we want to know where.If you're upset that they are, why aren't you equally upset with your MTC and their waste and mismanagement of millions in tax payer money.

  19. >to anon May 21, 2011 6:55 PM,Well even you must admit it is a first class library. After all it was recognized as one of the best in the State. County library did not make the cut.

  20. >God spare us the self righteous attitude of the Middletown TC. They screw up everything they touch and tell the truth about NOTHING !!!Arrogance is their only claim to fame….the five of them and the arrogant lawyer !

  21. >anon: 11:47As you have not posted any factual info I guess you are just spewing unsubstantiated claims about the boards spending.

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