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Oceanside Library's $33.5M bond moves ahead

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Mere hours after the Oceanside Library’s $33.5 million bond passed by 54 percent of the mail-in vote, administrators began brainstorming with architects and construction experts on how to proceed with the many projects that will be covered.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the community supported this project,” said Tony Iovino, the library’s director of community services. “We’re also humbled by it. We know that they are entrusting us to do the right thing with the money and to create a library that is worthy of the community, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Iovino added that most years, library budget and school board votes attract 1,500 to 1,900 voters, while under the mail-in ballot format, they received 8,000, which he called unprecedented.

The bond will cover projects that are under an initiative the library has labeled Vision 2020, and mark the first renovations to the facility in 25 years. It was put to a community vote after board members approved moving ahead, 7-0, in January. The bond will fund the renovations of some of the library’s rooms, enable the facility to host more programs and shows and enhance security while making the building more environmentally friendly and safe, officials said. The bond, which was on the ballot along with the library’s $6.9 million budget for 2020-21, will cost $1.8 million per year, and the average Oceanside homeowner’s library tax will rise from $314 to $454 annually.

After votes were tallied on June 16, Iovino said, he spoke with the project architect at 7 a.m. on June 17. The Manhattan-based firm of H2M architects + engineers was selected from about a half dozen firms that presented before the board at public meetings in 2016. Iovino said the next step is to work out a plan with the firm and then seek approval from the Town of Hempstead for any variances needed for the project.

Construction on the projects is slated to begin in the spring of 2021 and will last anywhere from one to two years. When construction begins, the library will close, but Iovino said administrators are looking into places that can be rented short-term to help the facility continue to function and serve the community.

Library Director Chris Marra said she was “delighted” that the community supported the bond and the library’s budget.

“We look forward to rebuilding the library to serve the needs of our community for decades to come,” she said. “We know these are difficult times for many, and we cannot thank the community enough for their trust and support.”

Resident Aaron Meyer said he and his family frequently use the library, and he advocated for the bond’s passage. “Our children will immediately benefit from the new Children’s Room and perhaps from the STEM lab,” he said, “and in time will be able to take advantage of the sections being built for older kids. . . . It’s not about what we ourselves will use or what benefits us directly. The proposal encapsulated a range of developments that will positively affect all residents of Oceanside.”

Cory Knopf-Kahla called it an “amazing addition” and said it would increase the value of homes in the area, while Jonathan Brooks said the library desperately needed a renovation, and the bond would help it continue to be a vital community cornerstone for years to come.

Lorraine Bologna Lunarola, however, lamented taxes will rise. Many residents also spoke about how some of them didn’t receive ballots, while some ballots were sent to people who had long been dead.

Iovino said the issue was because the Board of Elections used out-of-date registration information, and there were some issues with mailings because it was bulk mail. He noted that school officials provided substitute ballots where needed, and put out notices on social media and through email blasts to make the public aware that it was an option.

Iovino thanked those who helped ensure that the major projects will be done.

“Our board worked extremely hard on this for a few years,” he said. “We thank the friends of the library for all of their hard work here, and we thank our patrons who really rallied. They saw the benefit of this in the middle of an economic disaster, and saw that the future of Oceanside will be enhanced by these projects.”