Library Board Nixes Study for Church

Posted on 28 August 2008

At this month’s meeting of the John Jermain Memorial Library board of trustees, library director Catherine Creedon announced the resignation of trustee Kate Evarts. Evarts, an architect whose work has kept her in Seattle, wrote to Creedon by email on August 20 to say that her project would keep her on the west coast for the foreseeable future. With great regret, admitting she would no longer be able to sufficiently perform her duties as trustee, she resigned her seat.

Evarts’s resignation will have no effect on the upcoming library trustee elections on September 16, in which there are three seats up for grabs. The three current board members, Theresa Ameres, Susan Merrell and board president Christiane Neuville will all be running, as will Sag Harbor resident Craig Rhodes. Rhodes is an architect who recently moved to Sag Harbor from Manhattan with his wife and daughter, but who grew up in the village.

With the now-vacant trustee spot, the board has three options. The announcement came too late for the vacancy to be factored into the election, despite the fact that four residents submitted petitions to run.

The board can choose to not act and instead wait until elections are held in September of next year. They can also hold a special election at a minimum 60 days after the scheduled election, or appoint a new trustee to fulfill the rest of Evarts’s term, which ends December 31, 2009. Evarts was in fact finishing the term of former trustee Deborah Wilson.

The board of trustees meeting continued with further discussions of the library’s renovation and expansion plans. These plans have dominated the board’s conversation since the submission of the Community Library Committee (CLC) Report in June of 2006.

Board member Susan Merrell reported that she was unable to find private donors willing to put money towards the exploration of an expansion into the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church building on Madison Street. At the previous meeting Merrell had pledged to put feelers out herself to find those who might help to underwrite an investigation of the church building. Her goal was to secure $15,000 to $17,000 up front.

“The opinions have turned,” said Merrell. “Those who were financially enthusiastic thought it over, and are no longer.”

Trustee Carol Williams added, “I don’t know how anyone could give $15,000 after such a negative appraisal.”

Williams referred to Creedon’s presentation at the last meeting, when she reported on a meeting held at the church between herself, Neuville, trustee Carl Peterson and Herbert Newman and Michael Scott of Newman Architects (formerly Herbert S. Newman & Partners.) Scott reportedly admitted that it would be “very difficult to convert the church.”

The dialogue with Newman Architects continued in an ad hoc meeting on August 6 with Scott and Richard Munday. Director Creedon and trustees Neuville, Peterson, Diane Gaites, Christopher Leonard and Nancy Hallock were in attendance.

According to Creedon, who read the notes from the meeting, the architects reminded the board members that the firm would create something beautiful in the church were the board to move in that direction.

They also reminded them, however, of the additional expenses to taxpayers that would be incurred, as well as the undesirable timber frame. This frame would be against code for a new library, and would require more sprinklers in case of fire. Libraries are typically built with as few sprinklers as possible, so not to ruin the books stored within.

The architects went on to discuss the procedures for beginning renovations on the original library building at 201 Main. The board and library director have stressed the necessity of immediate repairs to the envelope of the building, like fixing the exterior brickwork and a leaky roof.

The architects had apparently assured the trustees at the ad hoc meeting that if a two wave approach was needed, one for repairs and another for “sustainable additions,” it would come at no additional cost to the library. This left some at the board meeting scratching their heads.

“I just don’t see how that is possible,” said Williams. Architect Craig Rhodes, who is running for trustee, was present in the John Jermain upstairs rotunda. He spoke during the period for public input, asserting that it must be “more economical to do it all at once.”

In the meantime the architects have suggested that they could at the same time study the envelope of the building while engaging in the planning, designing and community based activities leading up to a vote for a library expansion. The “expansion” could refer to a second building, or even a 4,500 square foot extension to the original building (this would be 1,500 square feet each for three floors, but this figure is “not set in stone.”)

Newman Architects presented the library board with three “proposals for service,” which are essentially contractual agreements. The library as of now has not officially hired Newman Architects, and thus fees have still not been discussed. The board reviewed these contracts in executive session, then came back into public session to vote.

The first was a feasibility study for the Methodist Church building, a facility assessment and analysis of what would be needed to accommodate a library in the space. The board did not accept this particular proposal.

“It was a great deal of money that we didn’t want to spend recklessly,” said board president Neuville,

Also presented was the 201 Main Street conservation study, a package to assess the condition and subsequent restoration of the current library building. Lastly was a proposal for pre-referendum services for renovation and expansion, the scope of which is research and design services to support the work on the John Jermain Library within the community. The trustees exercised their right to not vote on these proposals yet, wishing to explore further whether there would be any duplication of services.


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