The Harrison Public Library Foundation (HPLF) is hopeful that a public-private partnership with the Town of Harrison will help move along plans for the downtown library's first major renovation since 1984.
After forming in 2010, the foundation secured a . Since then, the HPLF has received about $75,000 in private donations to subsidize a major project at the library, said Ross Halperin, Richard's son. But with early estimates for the project in the $3 million range, the HPLF has now discussed the idea of public funding with the Harrison Town Board.
"It's an opportunity for the town to really invest in a critical piece of infrastructure," said Ross Halperin, who sits on the HPLF board of directors, adding; “We do think there is a really good value proposition here."
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But the Town Board met the idea with a lukewarm response during a public work session on July 5. Although supportive of the renovations, the board was unified in its belief that this is not the time to bond another capital project.
"Right now we don't have the money to invest in bonds for the library, that was the feeling of the board," said Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont.
Although Belmont called the library renovations "a great project", he said the board feels there are more immediate concerns in other buildings. He added that the town is already considering improvements along Halstead Avenue and a major project to reduce continued flooding in some Harrison neighborhoods.
Halperin said this week the Town Board's response didn't come as a surprise and that the HPLF still hopes that a combination of private donations and an investment from the town can be worked out.
"Every one of them individually is very supportive of this project," said Halperin. "We look forward to working with them to come up with a creative public-private partnership that makes sense for Harrison."
The HPLF plans to complete an architectural design for the project this summer. At that time they will present the design to the public and the town board, said Halperin. Although still in its preliminary phases, early proposals for the renovations include a dedicated children's center, private study rooms, a new teen center and a cultural center for music and other activities.
With the additional space and a new layout, Halperin said he envisions the library as a centerpiece for the community moving forward.
"It's really a critical community resource that benefits everyone," Halperin said of the library, adding that use of the building is up 15 to 20 percent over the last five years as the building has become more of a modern activity center.
Halperin credited Library Director Galina Chernykh for that transformation, but said the current building is stifling the library's growth potential.
"This is a once in a generation opportunity for Harrison to transform itself at a very reasonable cost," said Halperin, who stressed the importance of a complete renovation. He added that surrounding communities have invested millions of dollars into their library facilities while Harrison has lagged behind.
With fundraising events planned for the summer, the HPLF will continue to pursue private donations for the project.
"We are going to aggresively pursue those funds," he said, adding he is very optimistic Harrison residents can expect improvements to the library in the near future.
"Something is going to happen," he said. "It's just a matter of how awesome it is."