Block Island Times

Library Trustees seek clarity on building issues

The Island Free Library is, in the words of Director Kristin Baumann, a “big building, a heavily used building” that requires constant maintenance and attention. At the most recent meeting of the Board of Trustees, Baumann said she has had long-standing issues with doors and windows, and she said that the installation of the new broadband network may require a significant upgrade to the facility’s technology. There is also a question of the library’s roof, and the need for an elevator.
With those questions in mind, and how to address them, the Trustees invited Town Manager Ed Roberge to the most recent meeting to clear up what Baumann called an “unclear path.”
Baumann asked Roberge if he would like to come to meetings on a quarterly basis. “How would you like us to proceed in a let’s get-things-off-the-list kind of way?”
“There are a lot of things that need to be done with the building, and we don’t know who to turn to,” said Trustee Dave Sniffen.
Roberge said the library is in somewhat the same situation as the Medical Center, in that they can be described as a having a “landlord/tenant” relationship, given that the library is in a building that’s owned by the town,” said Roberge. In that way, said Roberge, “we don’t have well-defined roles in what people should be doing.” In other words, if a lightbulb goes out, should the tenant replace it, or call the landlord? Roberge said that town Facilities Manager Sam Bird is the point-person for those kinds of questions.
The Trustees then discussed the need of creating a 10-year plan, given that the make-up of the Trustees will change, but having a long-term plan in place would mean that new members can be on the same page as those who have been on the board for longer periods of time.
“We are used to having a five-year plan but I can certainly have a 10-year list,” said Baumann.
Baumann mentioned the almost-certain upgrades that will come with the new broadband network, and added that “very few doors in this building work. That’s now also a capital project. I really want the facilities manager or the town manager to help me with these projects. We need to fix the door before the Fire Marshall gets here.”
“This is why we need a 10-year plan,” said Vice Chair Lisa Nolan. “Then everybody coming on board will know the plan.”
Roberge recommended the trustees meet with Bird next month to “outline what the thought process is. What are the expectations? It’s never been clear.”
“Correct,” said Baumann.
“People need to know who to call,” said Roberge.
Baumann also expressed some discomfort with the terminology that Roberge had used when calling the library a “tenant” in the building.
“That’s new language to us, but we can work with that,” she said.
“Those terms are too impersonal, too formal,” said Roberge, “but those are not what our actions will be, to make sure the building is dry and warm and safe. Let’s work together.”
FY 2020 budget
The trustees also approved sending along its fiscal year 2020 budget request for the annual review. The budget request is $513,374, a slight increase over the current appropriation of $506,429. The biggest jump was in the salary line items. The current allocation for salaries is $204,421. The proposed amount for next year is $353,000, which Baumann said would bring her salary levels into line with their counterparts on the mainland
The trustees also re-elected their slate of officers.
Chair Shirlyne Gobern, Vice Chair Lisa Nolan, Treasurer Willie Feuer were re-elected to their positions. Tom Doyle was elected as Secretary.

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