For the past three years the Plattekill Library Board of Trustees has been unable to reach a consensus on how to build a new library in town due to significant and ongoing disagreements on how to proceed.
The board spent several years on a failed attempt to buy the nearby Cider Mill property and it appears they have lost their deposit of $9,250 because of the mishandling. This lack of cohesiveness on the board was on full display at last week’s meeting.
When Karen Adamson, Valerie Smith and Lynn Ridgeway were asked if they had voted in the past against the present library property for a new building, Ridgeway flatly denied they had voted no. Adamson said she has never been against considering the present property but does not want to sink any money into the actual structure while Smith wants “proof” that their present site is a “good thing for the taxpayers.”
Library board minutes reveal that in 2016 the trio were willing to spend nearly $1 million for the sale and remediation of the Cider Mill property before a shovel went in the ground for a new structure. The library’s own architect calculated the figure.
Two votes in 2016 were critical. At the May 12th meeting a motion passed 4-3 stating the board would “not close on the other property [Cider Mill] until August to give us time to investigate other options for properties.” The yes votes were Farrell, Egan, Luz Ledesma and David Padilla and the no votes were Adamson, Ridgeway and Smith.
Fearful that Ridgeway would ignore the will of the board and still go ahead with purchasing the Cider Mill property – a power the board had previously granted to her – Trustee Joe Egan made a more detailed motion at their July 14th meeting, stating, “that we do not take any action on the Cider Mill property until we explore the current library property.” This motion failed to pass by a vote of 4-3, with the yes votes of Egan, Farrell and Padilla against the no votes of Ledesma, Adamson, Ridgeway and Smith. Ledesma’s switched vote from May in effect killed the motion. The following year the Library Board voted not to purchase the Cider Mill property and they took away Ridgeway’s power to act unilaterally on behalf of the board to purchase any property.
Last week Smith would not commit to purchasing the present library property from the town, saying that additional testing still needs to be done. She said the contract with the Cider Mill property had conditions attached “but with this property it’s really important that we know what we’re getting into…Some members on the board need to have that testing done before they will say positively that they think this is a good deal for the library and to decide what would be a fair asking price for it.”
Smith failed to mention that the Cider Mill contract had been made in the spring of 2014 but later that fall the owner canceled it and returned the deposit check. Smith and Ridgeway told the board there still was a contract and that the returned check was put in escrow, leaving them with the impression that the money was back in their account, when in fact it was put in a folder and later expired. At no time did Ridgeway or Smith inform the board of the impending expiration. Ridgeway has never admitted that she let this happen but claims it was all a “misunderstanding” with their attorney. The library still does not have this money in their account. In the email record, the library’s attorney stated that Ridgeway was fully apprised on all that transpired.
Last week Egan said that with the Cider Mill property a price was agreed to, a contract with conditions was drawn up and environmental testing of the property was then undertaken. He asked, “why are we doing everything backwards compared to what we did at the Cider Mill?” He chastised Smith for her comments “that we know are totally contrary to what you’ve said [in the past].” He went further to point out that the library has been inconsistent with procedure, again targeting Smith, “and you come in here and try to say we’re the issue and you point out Will [Farrell] complaining about doing things differently…We go for how many years jerking us around; how many more?” He charged that the block of four – Adamson, Ridgeway, Smith and at times Ledesma – have continually thrown up roadblocks in the board’s quest to establish a new library in Plattekill.
Adamson asked if the board “is supposed to be in a hurry about a decision like this.” She said the present library site is a “perfect piece of property” and added that Egan’s statement that she is against the present location was not true. She shouted at him “Don’t put words in my mouth. I am tired of you and Will going out into the community and saying things that I said that I did not say…I will not tolerate this…I am tired of the way you speak to the rest of us and you take the smirk off your face because it’s about time.”
Farrell concurred with Egan, pointing out that the entire procedure, vetting and due diligence on the Cider Mill property took less than 5 months. “This property we’re going on two years and here we are still talking about getting the water tested. We had a due diligence list for the Cider Mill property and it was done. We were chomping on the bit to buy it so why are we doing this property backwards?”
By Mark Reynolds