Category Archives: unfinished business

>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.

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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

>"Unfinished Business" To Be Discussed at Wednesday’s Middletown Library Board Meeting

>Tomorrow night’s (Wednesday) scheduled Middletown Library Board meeting on the surface seems rather innocuous and uncontroversial when you consider the course of events that transpired over the last few months between the Library and the Township Committee over surplus funds, but as we know appearances can be deceiving. The dangers that lurk under calm surfaces may be hidden from view but nonetheless still exist.

Having looked at the agenda for the upcoming meeting there is a discussion scheduled to take place title “Unfinished Business-Update” for line item #8.

Under this title a number of items will be discussed such as the Strategic Plan ,the Lincroft Needs Assessment and the Maser Consulting Proposal. Also under the auspices of this line item, a discussion will take place about the proposal received for engineering work for the Main Library parking lot.

This discussion could get interesting because this project was one of the priorities of the library’s Board of Trustees prior to the Township’s money grab last month, and as such, it was included in the agreement between the library and the Township on the $500,000 transfer of funds.

What make this interesting is that the Township’s trusted engineers of choice, T&M, would be the engineers on this project with no options given to the library for consideration of other firms, which means no competitive bidding on the project that could reduce costs and no say in the final design or outcome of the project by the library trustees.

So the question is, who will be watching out to ensure that the parking lot expansion project will be done properly and in a cost efficient manner? This is the first test for the Township to see if it can be trusted to do what’s right with the monies that will be given it by the library when the funds are finally transferred in the near future.

If you’re interested in attending the meeting it begins at 7:00pm and will be held in the Community Meeting Room of the Main Branch located on New Monmouth Road.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, budget surplus, Meeting, Middletown Library, Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, parking lot expansion, T and M Engineering, unfinished business