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Library Board of Trustees Votes to Release Funds

Final agreement marks compromise from initially requested figure

The budget deal has been sealed. After some minor quibbling, in front of a 14-member audience, the two resolutions, sponsored by the Middletown Township Library Board of Trustees, were passed, freeing up money to aid the township in its budget dilemma and authorizing the township to help the library with capital improvements.

In a session that lasted from 7:00pm to 10:35pm on Wednesday night at Middletown Township Public Library’s Community Room, the Board voted five-to-two for a from its $1.2 million surplus for the purposes of the township tax relief.

The number, lower than the initially township-requested $900,000, was what was agreed upon between the township and library board attorneys after much mediation.

Board President Randall Gabrielan and Vice President Gregory Milne voted against the resolution to unrestrict, Gabrielan having bringing a new offer of $250,991 to the table, instead, prior to the final vote. Board member Vivian Breen raised objection to the motion, asserting the attorneys’ work in fashioning the terms of the initial resolution should not be disregarded.

Milne said he “wasn’t married” to the $250,991 number, leaving room for negotiation. But many members and Kevin Settembrino, Township Committee liaison to the board, specifically felt the original terms had to stand.

Gabrielan's counter-offer failed by a vote of four to three, with board members Breen, Marjorie Cavalier, Settembrino, and Sherry Miloscia turning down the last- ditch-try-for-less proposal.

A key factor in the eventual passage of unrestricting was the library’s parking lot project. As part of the library/township deal, the township is set to take care of the project. That became a point of contention between members of the board.

Settembrino suggested the library would save money by having the project rolled into other township projects of the same nature. Miloscia felt the library should have the option to select vendors through a bidding process, suggesting that would offer lower, competitive pricing.

Library Director Susan O’Neal said that the project might be paid directly from the reserve; a suggestion Miloscia agreed with, stating, “I am not comfortable with taking on debt service.”

Cavalier said, “If you have the money outright and you don’t have to go to the township, then don’t go to the township.” The restructuring of the funding for the parking lot project, as well as an assurance that the $499,947 figure represented the maximum amount to be taken from the coffers for the year and no more, and assurance that the Middletown Township branch would be safe from county takeover, moved board member Rachel Raymond to vote for the resolution.

After a brief recess to consult the legal counsel for the Township regarding changes and additions to the wording of the resolution, the counselor for the Library Board Gina Schneider of the law firm Genova, Burns and Giantomasi of Newark, confirmed their agreement, leading to the vote. Two subsequent votes regarding elements of the resolution to unrestrict fell along the same pattern — five-to-two in favor of the $499,947.

The vote for the agreement was seen as a certainty to many, prompting residents to avoid the meeting. Only fourteen residents attended and many left during the proceedings as the evening wore on.

Settembrino felt the vote confirmed pragmatism within the board saying, “(The five-to-two vote) is an indication of how board trustees and the township can work together.”

Gabrielan believed the vote left no flexibility for uncertain financial times. “We’ve denied our responsibilities regarding the fiduciaries of the library.”

O’Neal recognized the divisive effect of the resolution to unrestrict stating, “The Board, having given this their serious consideration, at the end of the day, came to the decision to make peace. A lot of people saw the sensibility in giving up the reserves, but this has been hard. This has been very hard.”

Other business for the evening included a vote in favor of raises for the library’s non-union employees, passing 4 to 2 with Settembrino and Milne voting against. Settembrino stated that, in light of the current economic situation, he could not vote for raises of any kind. Settembrino and Milne also voted against a raise for employees of the facility working as pages, with the same intents voiced. This raise passed as well.

A vote to change the library’s magazine subscription service to EBSCO Services passed 5 to 1, Settembrino dissenting.

Votes to change landscaping service from Seasons Matter Landscaping to Picturesque Landscaping, to purchase a Dell virtual server with state aid funds, and to reject extra funds to be allotted to Maser Consulting regarding a billing error all passed unanimously.

See Patch's for background information.

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