Category Archives: Susan O’Neal

January 18th meeting of the Middletown Library Board sets the tone for the year. The Demands, the Numbers, and the Possibilities Part 3

by guest blogger Linda Baum

This is part 3 of my 3-part post on the 1/18/12 meeting of the Library Board. The next Library Board meeting is this Wednesday, February 15th at 7:30 p.m.

PURCHASING RESOLUTIONS — SERVICE CONTRACT FOR LIBRARY ATTORNEY

New Board member Michael Convery, an attorney, had many questions about the legality of resolutions and whether or not there was a need to bid out contracts. Ms. O’Neal noted that libraries have a statutory exemption from purchasing laws for books and materials. “Where is the list of exempt services?,” he asked. In the statute, he was told.

Mr. Convery suggested having an attorney sign off on resolutions and the vendor list. Ms. Murray went a step further and suggested that an attorney be present at all Board meetings. The new Township appointees agreed.

Those in the audience whispered, “Didn’t they want to reduce expenses???”

The other Board members felt that there was little need to have an attorney sit in on regular meetings – one could always be consulted if an opinion was needed.

Some background: While “major” boards, such as the Planning Board, may have a lawyer present at each meeting due to the nature of their work, “minor” boards, such as the Historical Commission, do not. The Library Board used to have an attorney at meetings at one time, but there was little need in view of the low hazard operation, and the regular attendance of a lawyer was eliminated.

Vivian Breen suggested, somewhat facetiously, that they seek pro-bono services – maybe attorney and former Board member Gregory Milne would be willing to donate his time. There was no response from the new trustees. (That was also how things went at the Township Committee meeting the night before when residents offered their free services to renovate the pool club. That offer fell on dead ears, too.)

When it was time to award the contract for attorney services, experience in library law took a back seat to hourly fee, office location, and labor law experience.

In my 1/9/12 post, “Attorney representing TOMSA and the Township also seeks appointment as Library Attorney at the January 18th Meeting of the Library Board”, I mentioned that experience in library law was a requirement for the job, or at least had been considered important in the past.

The new Township appointees didn’t feel knowledge of library law was necessary. Mr. Convery was particularly insistent about that, seeming to ignore that all of his earlier questions required response from someone with an understanding of the statute. He and others felt that an interpretation of the library law could be provided by any attorney. Labor law experience was seen as more important.

While applicants without library law experience had lower fees, Mr. Gabrielan pointed out that they might bill significantly more hours while they are getting up to speed on matters an experienced attorney would already know.

Ms. O’Neal suggested that the Board might lower its costs by issuing a new RFP to hire an attorney on a retainer. The new Board members declined to do that for now, opting instead to pay by the hour in case the Board decides at a later date that attorney attendance at meetings is not necessary, or at least that was a reason given. (I found it odd that the new Township appointees, after having shown uniform support to have an attorney at meetings, wouldn’t opt for a less costly fee arrangement and wanted wiggle room to change their minds about attorney attendance. That is surprising considering how critical they were of the Board, and its president in particular, for not having had an attorney at meetings in the past.)

Attorney Richard Leahey’s local office was touted as a plus by the new trustees, who pointed out that it would mean fewer hours billed for travel time to Board meetings. (I wondered if the push to have an attorney at meetings was in part so that they could make a stronger case to keep the contract local…)

Leahey lacks library experience, but his rate was among the two lowest, matched by McOmber & McOmber, P.C., also local and lacking in library experience. While the two candidates seemed “neck and neck” for a while, the service award went to R. Armen McOmber, whose application indicated he would provide service personally. Mr. Leahey’s work for the Township was mentioned as a possible conflict and factored into the Board’s decision.

The Library’s budget was amended to increase the amount budgeted for attorney services from $4,000 to $10,000, in part to account for the fact that this is a labor contract negotiation year.

THE BY-LAWS

On the agenda was the formation of an Ad-hoc By-laws Review Committee to update the by-laws for the increase in the Board’s membership.

Mr. Convery was very critical of the by-laws. He called them “terrible” but wasn’t specific. I don’t have a lot of patience for such vague criticism and look forward to hearing what specific changes he feels are necessary, and who will benefit

Mr. Gabrielan explained that the by-laws, which were last revised ten years ago, were simple by design and, while needing update in a few areas, met the needs of this type of operation.

(Add by-laws review to the list of things this year’s legal counsel will be billing for. I wonder if the $10,000 budget will be enough.)

PURCHASING RESOLUTIONS — BOOKS & MATERIALS

There were numerous purchasing resolutions on the January agenda, and that’s normal. The Library’s ongoing operation requires purchasing year-round. Ms. O’Neal noted that there are seasons of publishing – different items are ordered at different times of year — and that the Board reserves money at the end of the calendar year to allow for that.

Ms. O’Neal said that vendors have specialties in terms of what they provide, so different materials are ordered from different vendors, all of which were selected for their preferential discount schedules. She also noted that the Library has people who specialize in knowing what materials are required for specific subject areas.

The new Township appointees were hesitant to approve the purchases, one of which was an order of about $200K from the Library’s primary vendor. They had questions about how to review the orders and accounting. And that’s reasonable – they are new to this and there is a lot to know. The Board discussed training that would be available so that the new members could familiarize themselves with Library operations.

To me, the new Township appointees seemed conflicted between the need for continuity of Library operations and their apparent charge to cut the budget.

Mr. Gabrielan pointed out that these were pro-forma resolutions that the Board passes annually as part of normal operations for all New Jersey libraries, and he asked that the new members trust management and the other more experienced Board members.

The response from the new Township appointees was a blunt, “No.” And then they brought up Mr. Gabrielan’s books and then the accusations flew. They said, no one’s accusing anyone of anything, but…

Vivian Breen raised her voice, “This library has not been a problem. You’re
making this a problem, and it isn’t.”

Lawrence Nelsen harped, “No one had a problem with Bernie Madoff, either.” Audience members gasped.

“That’s totally different,” replied Ms. Breen, with restraint, considering.

Ms. Murray said, “We don’t feel there is a problem, but I don’t think it’s fair to invalidate our opinions because we don’t feel more comfortable.”

“But you’re invalidating what we’ve been doing for years,” said Ms. Breen, her voice elevated

.

Ms. Miloscia said that not everything needed to be ordered in February, but that they needed to start ordering. “Otherwise, you’re going to paralyze the Library,” she said.

Ms. Breen offered an analogy: “If you bought a supermarket, and you took over as boss, you would have to [continue]…purchasing cans to stock shelves until you figured out what was going on or you would go out of business.”

After discussion, the purchase resolutions were approved by the full Board.

For comparison, consider that the Township’s January bill list was approved by unanimous vote, and without any public discussion, by the Township Committee on January 17th, Ms. Murray’s first regular meeting as Committeewoman.

Note also that at the TOMSA Board’s February 9th meeting, a no-bid $343K engineering contract was approved without comment by the Board, who, coincidentally, voted at that meeting to approve their own salaries, a perk no other board in town gets. No other board in town gets the free medical benefits or pension credits either. Perhaps Mr. Nelsen should take a look over there.

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Filed under board attorney, Board of Trustees, budget cuts, by-laws, Lawrence Nelsen, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, service contracts, Stephanie Murray, Susan O'Neal

January 18th meeting of the Middletown Library Board sets the tone for the year. The Demands, the Numbers, and the Possibilities Part 2

by guest blogger Linda Baum

This is part 2 of my 3-part post on happenings at the 1/18/12 meeting of the Library Board. A reminder that the next Library Board meeting is this Wednesday, February 15th at 7:30 p.m.

LAWN CARE AND SNOW & ICE MANAGEMENT

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen figures tossed around on this topic. Here’s the story:

Committeewoman Stephanie Murray questioned the outsourcing of lawn care and snow removal. She asked why the Township couldn’t do this and was advised that DPW had been contacted but felt they couldn’t provide adequate services. DPW Director Ted Maloney had said to revisit the matter with DPW upon contract expiration.

“Lawn care” includes a great deal more than mowing. It also covers pruning, weeding, fertilizing, seeding, insect control, debris removal and more.

Land care and snow & ice management are grouped together as one line item on the budget, but are two separate contracts. The contract for land care is for one year only. Snow & ice management is a 2-year contract that runs through April 2013. The Board usually opts for a 2-year contract for ice and snow removal for two reasons: 1) as a hedge against increases in contract cost when the price of gasoline goes up, and 2) it helps to have a contractor in place well in advance to cover the late December/early January period.

For 2012, the budgeted amount is $30,000. In 2011, the contract for landscaping was $9,000. The Library paid the contractor an additional $1,700 for new trees in the front, which was approved as part of the job specifications. For snow removal in 2011, the Library paid $10,953. In all, these expenses were $21,653. The cost for land care is a fixed amount, however it is necessary to budget conservatively for snow & ice management in line with variations in snow fall and contract cost based on the proposal awarded. The 2012 budget for these services is the same as for 2011. In a low snow year, they make out okay.

Ms. O’Neal provided a brief history, noting that when the Library was renovated in 2003/2004, the Township Committee wanted a sprinkler system installed and extensive landscaping in order to enhance the value of the property. Once that was done, the members of the Board felt that proper stewardship of the property required the land care services of a private company because the services of the Township were not adequate.

The Library has special needs given its hours of operation and 7-day schedule, and the Township was not able to make the Library a priority given its other commitments. This is true not only for snow removal, but also for property maintenance. Consider if you have ever seen work being done on the Library grounds during its operating hours. I haven’t. Work appears to be done before or after the public arrives, so that we can enjoy the serenity and quiet that libraries are so well known for.

When it snows, the Township is going to clear snow from streets first so that ambulances can get to homes and people to hospitals. Nobody lives at the Library, so it may be very low on the list.

During public comments, one woman commented on how quickly snow is removed now, so that the Library can be enjoyed by the public. Another resident said “This works” and encouraged the new Board to be slow to change.

In fairness, I should note that when there are particularly heavy snow storms like those of last winter, the Library may need help from the Township’s heavy duty plows to clear its premises.

Several of the new Board members – Brock Siebert, Michael Convery, and Ms. Murray – were insistent that the issue of land care and snow removal be re-opened with the Township and suggested that the Library “make” the Township handle this. They didn’t say how they expected the Board to do that, or how to ensure that the current high standard of service is met.

Ms. O’Neal pointed out that many Libraries that have snow and land maintenance handled by the municipality get charge-backs for those services, so “the elephant in the room” is that one way or another the Library pays the cost for these services.

MY PREDICTION: Snow removal and land care services will be handled by the Township upon contract expiration, or sooner, and the Library will not be billed. I say “or sooner” because the new Trustees are insistent that the matter be re-opened with the Township now, so it appears they are willing to cancel the contract and deal with any ramifications.

THE NUMBERS: The Library’s budget will be cut by $30,000. That increases the “take” by the Township by up to $36,000 given the combined effect of both the increase in surplus and the reduction in the budget, as described in part 1 of this post.

Why do I think the Township won’t bill the Library for these services? Because if they do, there would be no reduction to the Library’s budget, and the Township makes out the same or better if there is.

By not charging the library, the Township gets to look like the good guy, something I’m sure they will work into press releases. But, of course, they will make no reference to any slip in service quality or any extra costs the Library may incur to replace plants and trees that are not properly cared for. Nor will they mention the unusual sound of lawn equipment blaring while you’re reading.

STRATEGY: If the Township makes out the same or better by not charging the Library, then the Library might fare better if it pays the Township for these services – that is, more reserves might be protected this way. So perhaps the Library Board should offer to pay…

THE LIBRARY’S WEBSITE

New board member Lawrence Nelsen criticized the Library’s website, saying that many links don’t work. Check it out for yourself here (www.mtpl.org) and see what you think. Be prepared to have some fun – the Library’s website is cool, colorful, and informative.

I wonder if Mr. Nelsen has noticed that several calendar links on the Township’s website bring up the month of March 2011, a problem the Township has known about for months and still hasn’t fixed. And meeting dates on the Township’s online calendar are often incorrect. There are numerous examples from December: the Sewerage Authority board meeting was not on December 8th, the Zoning Board meeting was not on December 26th, and the Library Board meeting was not on December 21st. The latter date was correct on the Library’s website, though.

Ms. O’Neal replied to Mr. Nelsen that the Library doesn’t have a dedicated web person because the staff person who handles that has other duties, but she said that problems are fixed as quickly as possible once they are discovered.

MY PREDICTION: I have a very strong feeling that Mr. Nelsen’s out-of-the-blue comment was intended to start a discussion about the Township’s takeover of Library website maintenance and maybe other Library systems. That could possibly mean layoffs of library staff.

THE NUMBERS: I am told that the Township contracts out its website maintenance. If that’s true, the contractor would likely charge extra to handle more work. The Township might bill the Library for it, but might make out better if they don’t, as I’ve already pointed out.

Much like the other services the Library requires, the Township’s ability to take on this additional responsibility won’t matter. This is all about cutting as much from the Library budget as possible. Promises will be made, and problems will be dealt with down the road.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, budget cuts, lawn care, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, snow removal, Stephanie Murray, Susan O'Neal

Middletown Library Will Adhere To State Guidlines For The Selection Of Board Attorney

I think your readers should be aware that the Library follows the purchasing laws of the State for selecting all of its vendors and service providers. No one’s expressed “interest” in doing business with the library can supersede this process, or weigh the outcome.

The library puts out an annual Request for Proposal [RFP] for legal services, and the award is made to a firm/or individual within firm, based upon meeting the published criteria. The RFPs are available to the public via the library’s web page. http://www.mtpl.org This is the approved process, following the purchasing laws of the State of NJ.

It is unusual for the name of a prospective respondent to an RFP to be made public, as it was in the case of Linda Baum’s blog, but she had asked our Administrative Secretary a direct question about the identity of Mr. Leahy, and she received an accurate answer. Ms. Latona is not the “Library Administrator” as those responsibilities are mine alone.

The full body of the Board of Trustees will evaluate the responses to each RFP and make the decisions on the awards. It is not incorrect to use the words “appointed” for the legal counsel position, but the context should be that such appointment is made following the required legal process. It is possible that, due to timing issues, the selection of legal counsel for 2012 may be deferred to the February meeting, but I won’t know that for sure until I see how many responses we have, and how detailed they are, and, of course, what the will of the Board is in this regard.

Susan O’Neal, M.S.L.S.

Director
Middletown Township Public Library
55 New Monmouth Road
Middletown, NJ 07748

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Filed under Board of Trustees, Linda Baum, Middletown Library, Request for Proposal (RFP), Richard Leahey, Susan O'Neal

>What You Missed at the Middletown Library Board’s June 15th Meeting

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

It was just me again Wednesday night, a little discouraged that more people didn’t show up to support the library. Anyway, here’s what you missed in those 3 hours.

First, an update on the $500K transfer. Scheduled for this meeting was final review of the strategic plan and annual report to be submitted to the State Librarian, plus a required second vote by the Board as to whether or not to proceed with the transfer.

The Board’s review of the budget forecast began with Ms. O’Neal pointing out the obvious, that library funding would be painfully low for years to come. Ms. Miloscia asked, since they would be giving up a lot, if the town would recognize that gesture in the future when the library needs assistance as well. Initially, this struck me as a silly question because I think the town committee has made it clear in which direction they expect money to flow. But it has since occurred to me the Board has a perfect right to know what the arrangement with the town will be. Committeeman Settembrino gave a well rehearsed response free of promises. He said that he didn’t see why not, but mentioned non-starters like the tax cap and the changing leadership on the committee (which will still be republican-controlled next year, by the way). And as evidence of the town’s concern for the library, he pointed out that the town’s 2012 capital improvement plan already includes them (under this plan, the town issues the debt and the library pays the debt service). Ms. O’Neal asked if the Board would be forced to proceed, and she may have meant proceed with the lot construction, the funding arrangement, or both. No to all. The Board has the option to pay cash outright for the work, which presumably would allow them to make their own arrangements except for having to use T&M as engineer. Ms. Miloscia asked, “What if we don’t have the money to pay for it?” Kevin replied, “[That] will be a discussion for next year’s committee, but at this point I would say it doesn’t get accomplished unless it’s funded in accordance with the resolution.” Translation: The Board has 2 options, to make payments on the debt or pay cash for the work, but they should not expect the town to pay for it. For now, the parking lot expansion is a dead issue.

If you read my last post, you know that at the May Board meeting, Ms. O’Neal mentioned that the Board had not been satisfied with prior work done by T&M, who has been sanctioned by the town committee as the one-and-only engineer for all library capital improvements. I asked about that – i.e., what work was done by T&M and when was it done? Only Ms. O’Neal and Mr. Gabrielan spoke and they declined to discuss it, saying it was long ago and they have been assured that T&M would do a fine job. Needless to say, everyone seemed acutely aware that Committeeman Settembrino was in the room. Susan glanced often in his direction as she spoke. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see what kind of looks were being exchanged because my view of Kevin was blocked by the sound equipment.

Review of the Board’s strategic goals led to a discussion about the library in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was at one time among the best funded professional-level libraries in the country, but which had to close branches following a loss of funding and the leadership of its long-time director.

The plight of the Charlotte Library demonstrates why improving library volunteerism is an important goal. Public advocacy – our time and our money – becomes increasingly important when political advocacy and funding fall short. Got some free time? Or college-bound and looking for community service credit? Contact your local library.

The strategic plan and annual report were unanimously adopted by a vote of 7-0 (Resolution 2011-32).

When it came time to vote on the transfer itself (Resolution 2011-33), only Board president Randy Gabrielan took the opportunity to condemn the self-serving, deceptive tactics used by the town committee and to voice his frustration with his fellow trustees. It deserves repeat here:

“We saw the evolving fiscal condition of the library in March and it is here in clear black and white in the strategic plan. We would be imperiling the fiscal well being of this library over the next couple of years if we gave this money away. As far as I personally am concerned, the giveaway is tantamount to the township committee declaring war on its own library. The whole process as I see it is one of the mayor seeking to fulfill his short term political goals, the mayor and the committee not having done what they could have done with respect to cap exceptions and an exemption to meet their budgetary requirements, and they are putting their obligations on us. They did it by various threats, including holding hostage police jobs. Then after we passed our preliminary resolution in March, they’re going to other meetings still holding the same jobs at risk. I was against this in March. I’m against it now. I would have strongly counseled that we rescind our prior passage and vote this down, but unfortunately on the advice of counsel, it seems that our hands are tied. …but I insist that if we as a body don’t recognize what this is doing to the financial well being of the library, that at least the record demonstrates that.”

There was a full 15 seconds of silence after that. It felt like a memorial.

“It’s too much water under the bridge at this point to undo what’s been done.…This Board made a commitment to the township to do this,” said Mr. Milne. There was tacit agreement, and a roomful of downcast eyes. After hearing from Ms. O’Neal that even the Board’s lawyers thought that the Board did not have good legal standing at this point to back off, it was clear that the pending vote was little more than a formality. Resolution 2011-33 passed 6-1, with only Mr. Gabrielan dissenting.

I have to wonder if the town committee knew early on that the effect of railroading the Library Board into what was initially billed as non-binding negotiation would be to obligate them legally. Think back to the February Board meeting when Committeeman Settembrino pressed for a resolution to arrive at a number. The Board passed that resolution because they thought there was no harm in talking….

So now the matter will be passed along to the State Librarian, Norma Blake, for review. I heard somewhere that it could take up to 45 days for her decision. That doesn’t jive with the town committee’s plan to finalize their 2011 budget in early July. I asked Committeeman Settembrino how they expected to do that if the State Librarian hadn’t yet approved the transfer. The Board agreed with his assessment that all the documents were in order and that a quick response was expected from the State. Unfortunately, in line with regulations, the State Librarian reviews only the current year’s finances. Thus it is expected that the library’s budget shortfall for subsequent years will be ignored.

I asked Mr. Settembrino how the town would plug the $500K budget hole in the unlikely event the transfer was disapproved. He replied that the library board meeting wasn’t the right forum for that discussion, but he did clarify that the 2.99% tax hike (he said 2.99, not 2.9) reflects the 2% maximum increase within the cap.

Other business discussed at the meeting is as follows:

There was a slideshow presented by Dennis Kowal Architects, who recently completed a feasibility study for the renovation of the Lincroft branch, originally a 2-room schoolhouse built in 1906. The presentation was so packed with photos and sketches that if you’ve never been to the Lincroft branch, you’ll feel like you have. You can view the slideshow by clicking HERE

The good news is that the original structure is sound and can therefore be renovated. There is also ample parking since an overflow lot was added not long back. The renovation would include lots of energy efficiency upgrades while retaining existing wood floors and original hardware. A drawing of the architect’s proposed design is attached to this post. It includes a charming outdoor plaza-lounge created by sandwiching the front walkway between an existing structure and a new addition that would house new ADA-compliant bathrooms and an entry foyer. There is also a magazine lounge, a quiet study area, a contained children’s room (draft-free and no more runaways), and a fireside reading area complete with a gas-burning fireplace. If you live in Lincroft, you are probably filled with a sense of longing right now.

The project would cost roughly $650,000, not including new furniture, security and communication systems, architectural fees, or renovation to the basement storage area (filled with old municipal and police records). Add it all up, and the project budget would need to be in the range of $800 to $900K. And a caveat that the final design could change based on location of underground lines (the architect could not obtain a copy of the property survey).

The renovation probably won’t happen anytime soon because library funds are low for reasons we are all well aware of. The project might qualify for a matching New Jersey Historic Trust grant, but there is stiff competition for these grants, and Mr. Gabrielan, who is town historian in addition to being Library Board president, feels that the chance of getting the grant is slim. No decision has been made yet about how to proceed. The topic is slated for further discussion next month.

Ms. Cavalier asked if they knew how much financial support could be expected from the community. Susan said that $713K was donated for the 2004 renovation of the main branch, but only a small part of that was from Lincroft residents, who may be much more inclined to help fund their local branch. So be on the lookout for fundraisers!

If you are concerned about donating for fear your dollars will end up in the hands of the town, don’t worry. The Board was very clear that Library Foundation money is protected and is not part of the $500K transfer.

You may recall from a prior post that the Lincroft branch has termite damage in the entryway and is believed to have asbestos in the walls as well as lead-based paint. The architect didn’t test for hazardous materials and cautioned the board that if testing for hazmats is done, there is a legal requirement to remediate in line with test results. Susan advised that all paintable surfaces in the Lincroft branch were painted with latex paint in the last decade, so the lead-based paint poses no immediate concern. As for the termites, damage is supposedly concentrated in trim moulding rather than structural beams. The Board opted to wait and address these issues as part of the renovation.

Congratulations to Library Director Susan O’Neal, who is the NJ Library Association’s president-elect for coming fiscal year. “This is both a high honor and an awesome responsibility,” to quote Mr. Gabrielan. Susan’s name will be engraved on one of the silver-toned pages of a book-shaped locket to mark her achievement. The locket, a heavy piece made of gold and faience (tin-glazed ceramic), is the badge of office for NJLA presidents. Susan noted that the locket is actually too heavy to comfortably wear and reasoned that it was designed for a time when ladies wore much heavier clothing. A picture and history of the locket may soon appear on the library’s website.

In accordance with the Conover Whitol Scholarship guidelines, two graduate students enrolled in Rutgers’ library science program will receive $900 each toward the September term. Congratulations to recipients Debra Bodofsky and Elizabeth Edwards. (Resolution 2011-34, 7-0)

The Library welcomes back college student Stephanie Chadwick, who worked at the library last summer and is being re-hired part time for this year’s busy summer season. As a trained page, she is a valuable addition who can “hit the ground running”. (Resolution 2011-31, 7-0)

There was a first-time-ever theft of petty cash recently from the library’s Bayshore branch. The thief scored a negligible amount, and a lock-box will be added to deter future attempts. Yet another sign of the times.

Another topic concerned bill payments that have been held up by town administrator Tony Mercantante. In one instance, the requisition was for the payment of registration fees for a June conference that would provide training for five library assistants at a cost of $100 per person. The payment delay resulted in the registration deadline being missed, so the individuals couldn’t attend and will have to wait a year for the next conference. In another case, payment was denied for food expenses as part of conference attendance by a member of the library’s IT staff. Tony said the town doesn’t reimburse for food. However, the Library does. The Board felt this was unwarranted interference with Library operations. Mr. Gabrielan pointed out that the costs in question are normal outlays for staff development, benefit the library, and have been approved and budgeted for by the Board. Ms. Cavalier wondered if the problem was just ignorance (her word, not mine) on the part of the administrator.

In an effort to address the delays, Susan has contacted Mr. Mercantante, who feels he is within his authority. About a year ago, per Susan, Tony began asking for a written explanation for requisitions over $1000, but Susan said that the voucher, which is attached to the requisition, already lists that information, so to write it again is a duplication of effort for her. She said, “Anything over $1000 he sits on.” Part of the problem, Susan said, is that no one from the town contacts her when there is a question about an expense, so it doesn’t get addressed until she calls the town after there has already been a long delay. She’s wondered if maybe the slowness has to do with cash flow……

This was all news to Kevin, who said he’d look into it.

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Filed under ADA compliance, Board of Trustees, budget surplus, Lincroft branch, Lincroft NJ, Linda Baum, Middletown Library Feasibility study, Middletown NJ, restricted funds, slideshow, Susan O'Neal

>Two Meetings Tonight That Shouldn’t Be Missed; MIddletown Board of Ed and Middletown Library Board of Trustees

>If you are free tonight there are two meetings this evening that shouldn’t be missed, both the Middletown Board of Education and the Middletown Library Board of Trustees meet tonight.

If you attend the Middletown BOE meeting you will find out that Interim Superintendent Thomas Pagano has submitted his resignation, if lucky you will find out why.
I have been told that he is leaving due to health reasons, evidently he is very sick and can’t perform his duties as Superintendent of Schools. Funny, that is the same reason that recently elected BOE member Bob Banta gave when he handed in his resignation after only 1 board meeting.
If you happen to stop by the Middletown Library tonight, Library Director Susan O’Neal should be presenting the projected library budget (history and forecast) to the board of trustees.
From what I understand, it will demonstrate that transferring $500K of surplus funds to the township will mean the libarary will not recover to the 2010 funding level until 2022.
Knowing this, would the library board, as advocates for the library, vote for this transfer of funds to the Township? More than likely so, but should be? I think not, at least not all of it. The library is transferring nearly $250K more to the Township than legally required to do.
Both meetings should be interesting.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, budget presentation, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Library, resignation, school superintendent, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal

>Middletown Library Trustees Expected To Approve $500K Fund Transfer Report

>Still catching up on recent goings on that I wasn’t able to get to over the past two weeks is the latest news concerning the Middletown Library.

Back on June 2nd the Asbury Park Press ran a story about how at the next meeting of the Middletown Library’s Board of Trustees meeting on June 15th (this upcoming Wednesday), the trustees are expected to vote on a report that details the transfer of nearly $500K in surplus and reserved funds to the Township before it is sent on to the NJ State Librarian.
If the state librarian approves of the report, which could take up to 45 days and is not a given, the surplus and reserves library funds can be transferred according to state law to the township in order for it to be used in offsetting the municipal budget.

As stated in previous posts, the report has been the responsibility of Library Director Susan O’Neal to put together. The report needed to be rather complex and meet very specific standards, it will include demographic projections, a three-year technology plan and a three-year strategic plan for approval.
After having read the APP article about the report, I got the feeling that certain members of the Township Committee, namely Middletown’s appointed mayor, Tony Fiore, doesn’t trust the library trustees to do what’s expected of them based on the following excerpt:

“I don’t anticipate any potential negative portrayals,” said Fiore of the report. “I am confident they will do what is in their best interests and in that of the taxpayers of Middletown.”

It almost seems as if Fiore expects Director O’Neal to somehow sabotage the report by adding something to it that would prevent the trustees to support it or the state librarian not to approve it, which would either delay the transfer of funds or kill the transfer all together.
I you ask me, I think Fiore is a little paranoid and has a bit of a Napoleon complex. Whether it is this issue or some other, he always has to inject subtle or obnoxious and veiled threats to make his points.
It’s really arrogant and shows little class.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Board of Trustees, Middletown Library, NJ State Library, State Librarian, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal, Tony Fiore

>Clarification on Main Library Parking Lot Engineering; Main Library Parking Facts

>I received the following from Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal, who after reading comments about the Library left on this blog, felt it necessary to clarify a few points about the the Main library’s parking lot expansion project.

For several years, I have been informing the library Board of Trustees that the growth in library usage was creating a shortage of parking. My observations were that a shortage could pop up almost any day and time, and I recommended a parking capacity and usage study to be put into the Board’s capital projects plan. By last fall, it was at the top of the list of things that we needed to do. As with all of our capital projects, the library intended to use its reserves, not to ask the Township for funding.



In the Summer of 2010 I was authorized by the Board to send out RFP’s, Requests for Proposal, to engineering firms for an assessment of a number of parking lot matters. They included:



a study of parking lot use and capacity,
addition of more handicapped parking stalls,
safety of pedestrian crossing the lot,
the possibility of a drop off lane near the entry,
short term parking,
widening the parking stalls, and the
possibility of adding a drive up pick-up window.

Multiple proposals were received, and two firms were selected to be interviewed by the full Board. These firms represented the two lowest proposals in terms of cost. They were DW Smith and Maser Consulting. DW Smith had been the engineer who designed and carried out the water remediation project at the back corner of Main in 2009. Mayor Scharfenberger was present for the DW Smith presentation, but had to leave before the Maser presentation. The contract was awarded to Maser Consulting, in the approximate amount of $29,000. [I’m writing this from home so I only remember the approximate amount]

Maser conducted a comprehensive traffic and use study in AUgust and September 2010; I met with them several times to discuss library needs, etc. and they made and revised plans for a few months. In January, 2011, three proposals were reviewed by the Board at their meeting. Frankly, this presentation did not go well. The Maser team followed Mr. Settembrino’s layout of his four point plan for library finance, which had everyone on the board stunned. The main problem, though, was that additional parking in 2 of the 3 proposals would cover additional land with pavement and would generate storm management and environmental approvals that skyrocketed the costs. I asked Maser for a 4th plan that would avoid these issues and costs and get the maximum parking out of it that we could.

The 4th plan was reviewed by me, Tony Mercantante, Ted Maloney and one of the Maser engineers. Tony mentioned that including this project in the Town’s 2012 Capital Improvements Projects might get the library better pricing. This is the germination of the inclusion of this project in the Transfer of Library reserves to the Township settlement. At this time it was obvious that refinement of the last design, specifications for bidding, and the permissions and tests needed would require additional engineering work. Maser asked if they should prepare a proposal for these next steps, and I said yes.

The proposal came in on May 13, several days before the library board meeting. We were all informed by Committeeman Settembrino that all further engineering work on on the library parking lot would be conducted by the Township Engineer of record, that is T&M. The Board briefly discussed this at their meeting.

The next engineering work to be done will build on the Maser study, not duplicate it, as some have asserted incorrectly.

The Middletown Library will be expected to use the services of T&M if the project is in the Township’s CIP list for next year [and presuming T&M is the Township engineer in 2012]

The Library will be expected to pay all hard [construction] and soft [design, project supervision, permits, testing] that the Township engineer dictates is required.

And ultimately, maybe this is all moot. The library faces a huge cut in its operating budget next year, unless the TC is willing to provide more than the minimum funding level, and thus support the library at close to the 2011 level. A close analysis of our fiscal position is forthcoming. It is my personal belief as the Administrator of the Library, that the library should not undertake debt financing for this project, but rather maintain it’s prior practice of saving until enough cash reserves are available, and then proceeding. This will be the Library Trustees’ decision. I believe the problem of not enough parking will continue to grow, as library business is on a significant upswing. It is unclear to me whether the TC will provide permission for the library to proceed with any capital improvement project in the future unless it is totally under their control, except, of course, for the payment.

Lastly, I hope that in the length and detail of this explanation, it is not lost on the reader that the library’s plans included addressing numerous safety issues, not just additional parking. We DO need more handicapped parking, we DO need to eliminate the double parking in the lot for pickups and dropoffs, we DO need to add more safety measures for pedestrians who have to cross a traffic lane to enter the building!!

We have nearly 2,000 visitors per day at the library. Their safety is of keen importance to us.

Susan O’Neal, Library Director


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Filed under Board of Trustees, Library Facts, Maser engineering, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, parking lot expansion, Susan O'Neal, T and M Engineering, Ted Maloney, Tony Mercantante