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Library Negotiations Continue as Deadline Looms

The Harrison Town Board has until February 14 to come to an agreement on a timeline for a project that would renovate the downtown library. If an agreement is not in place, the Halperin Fund has announced it will withdraw a $1 million donation toward th

The clock is ticking as town officials try to finalize a plan with the Harrison Public Library Foundation that would renovate the downtown library through a combination of donations and town money.

The proposed renovation would provide a substantial upgrade to Harrison's current facility, but comes with an estimated $3.6 million price tag. The Richard E. Halperin Memorial Fund has offered a $1.1 million donation to help fund the project. The Harrison Public Library Foundation (HPLF), which is working with the Halperin Fund, has projected that an additional $1.5 million can be raised through grants and private donations.

But the plan is contingent on a $1.1 million pledge from the Town of Harrison to cover “deferred maintenance catch-up”, which the HPLF says is maintenance that the building will require within the next few years anyway. Ross Halperin, a representative of the Richard E. Halperin Memorial Fund and HPLF trustee, said in November that the Harrison Town Board has until Feb. 14 to pledge the money and agree on a timeline for the project or the funds will be diverted elsewhere.

This week Halperin said the foundation will stand by that statement, and will pull the donation if no plan is in place by that date. 

"We're in discussions," he said. "I don't know what the outcome is going to be. I'm hopeful (the town board) will do the right thing."

Meanwhile, the HPLF released a statement this week announcing that it hired a private engineering firm—Kohler Ronan LLC—to assess the library's current condition. The report concluded that most of the building's mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection infrastructure had not been upgraded since the building was constructed in 1961. The infrastructure observed "ranges from fair to poor and should most likely be addressed prior to failure", according to the release.

Halperin said he is pushing for the town board to contribute the $1.1 million to cover these costs, which he says it will eventually have to shell out anyway, as part of the renovation.

Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont said Tuesday that Councilman Fred Sciliano is looking over the assessment and that talks between the two sides continue.

"We're studying their proposal," Belmont said. "Hopefully it will all work out." 

The final scheduled meeting of the Harrison Town Board before the Feb. 14 deadline is Feb. 7. Halperin said he is hopeful for a decision by then.

The Harrison Public Library hasn't been renovated since 1984. An unscientific poll conducted by the HPLF last fall concluded that Harrison has invested significantly less in its library than surrounding communities since 1997.

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.

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