Harrison Library Partnership Decision Expected In March

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Ross Halperin, executive director of the Harrison Public Library Foundation, has worked with the Town Board on a public/private partnership agreement. Photo Credit: Patrick Stapleton

HARRISON, N.Y. – A decision on the proposed public/private partnership between the Town of Harrison and the Harrison Public Library Foundation concerning renovations to the downtown library will be announced at the March 7 Town Board meeting.

Ross Halperin, executive director of the Harrison Public Library Foundation, has met with board members several times to discuss necessary renovations to the downtown library. He also started a petition urging the Town Board to join a partnership, which garnered more than a thousand signatures.

“Clearly, there is a tremendous amount of support for our proposal in the Harrison community,” said Halperin.

In the years since his father, Richard’s, death in 2008, Halperin has made it his mission to raise funds for the library renovations, including working out the architecture and design of the future building with the library board. His father loved the library, which many, including those who work there, say is outdated.

The town, which owns the building, is being asked to take care of electrical, HVAC, fire protection and plumbing for an estimated total of $1,096,998. Those must be addressed before major renovations can take place to the interior and exterior of the library, Halperin said.

A Harrison Public Library Foundation published report states that if the town does not make the necessary improvements now and wait five years, it will cost $1,526,066 instead. The interest rate would increase from 2.39 percent to 5.03 percent and it would cost Harrison taxpayers $1.1 million more over a 25-year period.

Halperin estimated a total construction cost at $3,570,113 including $880,095 for the interior, $415,000 for the furniture, fixtures and equipment, plus $307,733 for the exterior.

Renovations would include an expanded children’s area and teen center, new adult area, plus 29 more computers for what Halperin said was “a truly once in a generation project.” The exterior, considered to be “ugly and uninviting,” Halperin said, would feature better use of windows to bring sunlight into the building.

The total targeted funding for the project is $2,596,997, including $750,000 in major gifts from individuals, $500,000 from corporations, $150,000 in grassroots campaigning and $100,000 in grants.

Mayor Ron Belmont and board members have supported the venture while also concentrating their time on other needs within Harrison.

“It will be an opportunity to do things that we would otherwise need to do anyway over the next reasonable period of time – four or five years,” he said. “It will have more stability, have greater lasting effect and be part of project that improves the facility which then can last for a very, very long period of time.”

Councilman Steve Malfitano said: “We’re obviously interested in seeing this evolve, so it won’t be for lack of trying. When you have public/private partnerships like that, it’s a great thing because you get the community involved. It’s a good cause. It reduces, obviously, the cost to the taxpayer.”

Halperin would like to see construction start on the library in 2014 at the latest, which he said was an important part of the discussion with the town.

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