After months of negotiations, the Town of Harrison and Harrison Public Library Foundation (HPLF) reached an agreement on Wednesday to form a public-private partnership to renovate the downtown Harrison Library.
The HPLF worked with the town on a deal for the roughly $3.6 million project and offered about two-thirds of the construction from funds raised through donations. The biggest donor came from the Richard E. Halperin Memorial Fund, which offered a $1.1 million. The library is named after Halperin, and his oldest son, Ross, is on the memorial fund Board of Directors, as well as a trustee with the HPLF.
“Getting this deal done was critical,” Ross Halperin said. “It really provides clarity around how this project will be executed. I think this is going to be an incredible benefit to the Harrison community and many people who use the facility, and even those who don’t. It’s going to make our community a nicer place.”
Halperin said he wasn't yet ready to release specifics of the agreement but expects final numbers to come out next week. A vote scheduled for Thursday night’s town board meeting has been canceled, and the library issue won’t be on the meeting agenda. Instead, Halperin said he hopes the agreement can be finalized sometime next week.
Instead of a vote Thursday night, Halpern said, there will be a week-long review period during which other constituencies will review and comment on the the contract.
"Then it’s likely that there’s going to be a special meeting next week to approve the agreement with a negotiator," he added.
Halperin said the agreement is fairly consistent with the figures the foundation discussed earlier in the negotiations. Earlier this year, it was reported that the HPLF estimated it could bring in an additional $1.5 million in donations, leaving about $1.1 million for the town’s side of the agreement.
“It was a good faith negotiation,” he said. “Everyone wanted to see this happen and wanted to get it done, but we both had issues and concerns. But we were able to come to terms and make compromises and create a plan and structure that’s acceptable to everyone. That’s very exciting and the town should be commended for that.”
Halperin said that if the agreement is finalized, the project would get under way sometime before June 2014.
On their site, the HPLF details a rationale for renovations, including the fact that no major improvements have been made since the 1980s despite library trustees acknowledging the need for renovations as early as 2004. Members of the group also looked up public information about the usage of the library, which grew 19.8 percent from 2006 to 2011, and the participation in children’s programs, which increased 19.5 percent over the same time.
Renovation plans also mentioned on the foundation's website include:
- Doubling the size of the children’s area, which will be walled off to lower noise elsewhere in the library.
- Increasing the number of computers from 12 to 41
- Installing a classroom for classes and meetings, including ESL, computer skills and employment seminars.
- Adding seating in the adult area.
- Upgrading the community room to include state-of-the-art TV studio equipment, a small stage and surround sound speakers for concerts, lectures, art exhibits and film screenings.