Stalled project given green light

The Huntington Park Project continues with a much delayed timeline. In January, the Stimson Landscape Architects presented Phase 1 of the project to the Library Board Park Committee with costs that far exceeded the grant money. They were asked to rethink the design with the goal of creating a more acceptable plan that had impact and was within reach of available funds.

By mid-February, the committee accepted the revised plan and it was sent to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for approval. It became apparent there were issues with the documents in the third week of March. As is typical, there was confusion about who owns the park and who was administering the grant. Luckily, I was able to produce the Memorandum of Understanding between the city and library that clearly demonstrates that the library applied for the funds and the city agrees that the library will manage the project. We are updating the documents which will be sent back to NYSOPRHP for approval, after which the project will be advertised for bid.

While working through the many stages of the Huntington Park Project in the past several years, people have been confused about who owns the park. Some think the city owns the property and also takes care of the maintenance and improvements. Others ask why the library is spearheading the new improvements to the park.

Yes, the city owns the building and the park and, according to Henry Huntington’s deed, they will own the property as long as it’s used as a library. Mr. Huntington’s only stipulation was that the city pay for the “lights.” Imagine how surprised Mr. Huntington would be to see the demands on the electric grid 100 years in the future. He couldn’t have imagined the amount of power it would take to provide lights, but also computers, tablets, air conditioners, printers, copiers, self-checkout stations and more.

To my knowledge, the library has always paid for the improvements and maintenance of the library property, including the lights! It works, because the library staff is directly impacted by the environment and can move quickly to resolve issues. Our full time maintenance man can immediately fix the toilet, or clean the gutters, or plow the snow, or mow the lawn. There’s no waiting in the queue behind all of the other parks, parking lots and burned out lightbulbs in the city’s many other facilities.

The library staff takes great pride in making sure the building and the park reflect its mission to provide lifelong learning opportunities with an open door policy. Over the history of the Huntington legacy, the library organization has made major improvements and kept up with general maintenance of the facility. Funding for maintenance comes from the library budget, but all improvements and most repairs have come from gifts and donations. Since only 62% of the library revenue comes from city and town taxes, there just isn’t enough revenue to also improve the property. The other two libraries in the Four County Library System of equivalent size receive more than 90% of their revenue from tax dollars and their budgets are about 50% larger than HML’s budget. Thanks to a strong community, the library continues to thrive and we have been able to make necessary improvements to the facility.

Library Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.

Tina Winstead is director of Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. Her column appears in the community section of The Daily Star every Tuesday. Her columns may also be found online at ity/library_corner.

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