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Oceanside Library’s $33.5M bond put to vote

‘Vision 2020’ ballots sent to residents

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The future of the Oceanside Library will be in the hands of residents who will vote on a proposed $33.5 million bond, known as Vision 2020, to upgrade the facility. Ballots were sent out last Friday and must be mailed in and postmarked by June 9.

Tony Iovino, the library’s director of community services, said the library board met several times to discuss whether to go forward with the bond proposal amid the coronavirus pandemic, and decided it was necessary to move ahead.

“We understand that this is an extremely difficult time, but we know this may be the best time financially to do it,” Iovino said. “It gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and is necessary to meet the needs of our public.”

Iovino explained that interest rates are projected to be lower than they were when the library board voted 7-0 to approve the project in January. He added that construction costs are expected to decline after the virus, and the plan to purchase a doctor’s office next door and turn it into a parking lot — adding about 20 spaces —could be lost if the board doesn’t move forward.

The bond would fund the renovation 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, officials said. For a list of projects covered by the bond, see box.

The bond would cost $1.8 million per year, and the average Oceanside homeowner’s library tax would rise from $314 to $454 annually, if the plan were approved.

That would mean an increase of $140 per year, or $11.66 per month, per household. The Oceanside Library now ranks 30th of 54 libraries in Nassau County in per capita spending, and would rise to 15th if voters were to approve the bond. If construction costs were to come in less than originally estimated, Iovino said, the taxpayer burden would decrease.

On May 20, about 75 residents took part in a virtual meeting, at which Iovino, board members and the architect explained the project’s details and fielded questions. Another virtual session is set for May 28 at 11 a.m.

If voters do not approve the bond, Iovino said, the library staff would have to figure out how to fix the facility’s infrastructure issues. The roofs and windows often leak, the elevator is outdated, the restrooms have not been redone in 22 years, and many rooms need to be modernized, he said.

Library Director Chris Marra said the building has not been renovated in 25 years. She noted that it has been the center of the community for decades, and even during the pandemic, it has been of use to residents, hosting about six virtual programs daily. Librarians have also answered patrons’ questions virtually.

“We have seen tremendous increased use over the years,” she said. “We know the repairs require a bond, and we understand that requesting funds in the middle of a pandemic is asking a lot and people are hurting. But we will reopen again, and we need this work to be done in order to be here for the community to work toward rebuilding our library and the future of Oceanside.”

After the Covid-19 pandemic, library officials would also like to add sanitary wipe dispensers, sneeze guards  between computers and furniture, and various fixtures that are easy to clean.

And they plan to hold active-shooter drills.

If the bond is approved, the board will finalize the plans with the project architect and submit them to the Town of Hempstead for approval. Construction would begin next spring and last about two years.

Residents will also be asked to vote on the $6.9 million library budget (up from $4.9 million in 2019-20), the $160 million 2020-21 Oceanside School District budget (which was $152.7 million in 2019-20), a proposition to use reserve funds to complete renovations of all Oceanside High School science labs and an uncontested school board race.

Residents offered mixed reviews for Vision 2020. Meryl Feinstein-Pearlstein said the community deserved an upgraded facility, and Jonathan Brooks was also among those who also expressed support.

“Our library is an essential part of this community,” he said. “Vision 2020 replaces broken equipment, updates the structure and expands parking.”

Mark Tenenhaus, however, expressed concern about the timing of the proposed tax increase amid the pandemic. “Of course the library is important, but this is not the time to finance an expansion that is a luxury,” he said. “Smaller financing to fix what is needed should be the right course.”

Iovino said he was hopeful voters would pass the bond. “We are Oceanside’s community center, and that’s even more so what we will be in the years to come,” he said, “and this project ensures that.”

To learn more about the project, visit oceansidevision2020.com.