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Donor Turns Up Heat, Wants Library Plan in 3 Months

The Harrison Public Library Foundation is hoping for an agreement from the town to renovate the downtown library.

The Richard E. Halperin Memorial Fund will consider pulling back more than a million dollars in donations if the town doesn't come to some sort of agreement in the next three months.

The Harrison Public Library Foundation (HPLF) is proposing a $3.6 million renovation to the library, about 2/3 of which would be funded through grants and private donations. The Richard E. Halperin Memorial Fund has offered to match donations to the HPLF up to $1 million.

Ross Halperin, a member of the HPLF board of directors, told the Harrison Town Board Wednesday the Halperin fund will consider pulling the offer if an official agreement isn't in place by Feb. 15.

"We are excited and ready to work with you on this, but we do feel we need to have this done in the next three months," Halperin said.

The board has publicly balked at the investment during previous public hearings, citing financial concerns. A line of library supporters petitioned the board the reconsider Wednesday night. 

Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont told the group the town is ready to work with the foundation in the coming months to find a solution.

"We are all in favor of expanding the library, we would love to see that happen," Belmont said. "We have to get it done, some how, some way, we have to get it done."

The foundation has already pledged more than $1.2 million to a library project and plains to raise another $1.5 million through grants and donations. About a half-dozen people urged the board to fund the additional $1.1 million Wednesday.

Among the supporters was former Westchester County Legislator and Harrison resident Martin Rogowski, who commended Halperin and the HPLF for their fundraising efforts before addressing the board.

"We need you to provide leadership," Rogowski said. "You need to look at this project and look at what's in front of you."

Lucille Held, a board meeting regular who usually takes a hard stance against spending, also landed her support to the project.

"This is not to be thought of as frivolous spending," she said. "I will take no excuse that you do not have the money." Held added that this is the biggest decision a Harrison Town Board has made in decades.

The Harrison Public Library hasn't been renovated since 1984. Halperin said the building has fallen into disrepair since then and that the building will need more than $1 million in repairs in the near future anyway. An unscientific poll conducted by the HPLF this fall concluded that Harrison has invested significantly less in its library than surrounding communities since 1997.

"We think the economics of doing so are incredibly compelling," Halperin said. "These are non-discretional things that will need to be done anyway."

The proposed improvements to the library include a new 3,200 sq. ft. children's area, 1,400 sq. ft. teen center, new computer lab, and renovated community room. The outside of the building would also be remodeled.

Renderings of the proposal are available here.

Ross Revira November 15, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Is this the opening Martin Rogowski is looking for to run for Supervisor next year? When was Lucille Held ever in favor of spending money? Answer: when it benefits a Democrat.
Donna November 18, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Although I love the library and use it frequently, there are so many other buildings in the town that are in worse shape than the library. Also, residents, including students, are no downloading books, textbooks, and using the internet so much more than before.

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