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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Library board adopts $3.4 million budget
Meeting grows heated over closure of West End branch
By Alexandra Spychalsky

The Long Beach Public Library’s West End branch is on its last legs.

The library Board of Trustees narrowly adopted a 2013-14 budget at a heated meeting on March 27, in a vote that hinged on whether the West End branch, at 810 W. Beech St., would be restored.

About 20 residents, including West End Neighbors Civic Association President John Bendo and County Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach)*, called on the board to reopen the facility, which lost $98,000 worth of materials in Hurricane Sandy.

By a 3-2 vote, the board adopted the budget, with Trustees Ira Grushack, Alan Greenberg and Warren Vegh voting for it, and Kathleen Dwyer and Carol Arnone opposing it. The plan totals $3.4 million, and is $27,193 larger — .008 percent — than the current spending plan, officials said.

“We want to tax people the least amount that we could, because there are parts of this community that are still suffering,” said Library Director George Trepp.

For the most part, library officials said, spending will remain the same. There will be enough money to finish paying this year’s $21,600 lease on the West End branch — which ends next February 2014 — but the budget does not cover the costs of restocking the facility.

Trepp said that the library board had three options for the West End branch. The first, most costly one was to reopen the building and restore it to its original state, with books, films, periodicals and other equipment, at a cost of $64,000.

The second option was to turn it into a “tech center” for teens. The library would pay to refurbish the building, and outfit it with new computers and technology, for $28,000.

The third option, Trepp said, was to use the space as a meeting place for local community groups until the lease runs out, at which point the branch would close. The budget proposal is based on the third option, with Trepp saying that he was given direction by the board to move toward closing the branch. But Dwyer and Arnone said that they were not part of that discussion, and gave Trepp no indication that they wanted the branch closed.

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