More than 50 residents packed the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library board meeting Monday night for an update on a $26.7 million renovation and expansion plan.
The meeting came less than a month before the Dec. 10 vote on a $22.7 million bond to help fund the project.
If passed, it would include a major renovation of the existing 45,000-square-foot main library, as well as the creation of annexes at the former Mastic Beach village hall and a new 7,000-square-foot building behind the Little Red Schoolhouse in Moriches on 3-4 acres donated by the William Floyd School District.
After an online petition urging the library not to raze the Little Red Schoolhouse — which the school district had planned to do — gained nearly 3,000 signatures, the library and civic leaders came up with a plan to save it. The library pledged $1 million through grants and savings to help restore the schoolhouse for meeting space that would complement an annex. Renovations to the schoolhouse are estimated to cost $2 million. Additional funds would have to come from donations or other government sources.
However, library board president Joe Maiorana told the crowd that the future of the schoolhouse was not part of the bond vote.
“We are not going back to the taxpayers to fund that renovation,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting, library director Kerri Rosalia showed a 7-minute video that included community leaders supporting the initiative, and the library’s engineering consulting went through the project’s details.
Reactions to the plan from those in the crowd were mixed, with some questioning if it was the most efficient use of taxpayer funds, whether the board had sought other consultants for the project and if a project on such a scale was needed.
“We have been burned by so many crooks here,” said one resident, referring to business conducted around the area in general. “We just want to make sure no one is pulling the wool over our eyes.”
Regarding the Mastic Beach annex, one person questioned its proximity to a bar, while someone else suggested the location on Neighborhood Road was unsafe.
The latter comment met with jeers from some Mastic Beach residents, and Rosalia said the location was a better spot for children and others who do not have the ability to travel far.
Others said the added annual cost of $85 per average household was worth it for the communities the district serves.
“I’m a single parent, recently retired and on a fixed income. However, it sickens me to see us supporting new 7-Elevens and drug stores and not supporting a new library,” said Jody Haniquet, of Shirley. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road and not make a decision.”
“I hear a lot of complaints about the community, but this is an opportunity to invest in ourselves,” added Shawnna Tereshko, of Shirley. “We have to invest in us first for other people to invest in us.”
The last board meeting before the bond vote will be this coming Monday at 7 p.m.
Click here for more information on the library’s expansion and renovation plans.