BRASHER FALLS — The Badenhausen Library in Brasher Falls, a branch of the Massena Public Library, will be permanently closing its doors by Dec. 31, according to the Massena Public Library’s Board of Trustees.
The trustees issued a press release on Tuesday explaining why the library would close at the end of the year when the current funding for the facility comes to an end.
They said that the late Dr. D. Susan Badenhausen saw the need in Brasher and the surrounding area for an educational and cultural center in 2014. She donated the funds for the startup costs, as well as the operational expenses for seven years. Dr. Badenhausen’s friends, Patricia McKeown and Karen St. Hilaire were instrumental in setting up the library, which was overseen by Massena Public Library Director Elaine Dunne. But that funding runs out at the end of 2021.
Massena Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy sent a letter to St. Regis Realty Inc., which leases the space to the library, indicating that Massena will no longer be responsible for the Brasher branch effective Dec. 31 when the funding runs out.
The annual budget of the library was $65,000, which included rent, utilities, staff, books and periodicals, plus connection to the New York State Library System through the Massena Public Library. The town of Massena was paid $5,000 annually for bookkeeping services.
“We had a contract with the Badenhausen estate to put a library out there until Dec. 31, 2021,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy previously said. “It’s expiring, so we agreed that the town of Brasher should pick it up and run the library.”
He said the idea behind Massena operating the library was to give Brasher officials a chance to decide if they wanted to keep it open and run it.
While it was costing the town of Massena nothing, the town of Brasher would be responsible for covering the $65,000 per year budget starting in 2022.
Library supporters had approached the Brasher Town Board to seek support for keeping the facility open. They were presented with the option to run the library on its own as a reading room and remain a member of the North Country Library System and its interlibrary loan system. However, Brasher Town Supervisor Mark A. Peets said the town would not legally become the owner of the library.
“Brasher’s legal stance is that after consulting with our lawyer, if we sign the lease or we do the books or we contribute any funds, taxpayer money or ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money, we’d be owning the library, Legally, we’re unable to,” he said.
Brasher Town Board members had agreed to provide $20,000 a year for two years from ARPA funds, which could be used for broadband service. The Badenhausen Library has WiFi that can be accessed from either inside the building or in the adjacent parking lot.
“We were looking at ARPA funds that could be used for broadband, and it would have made perfect sense to help them out. After talking with the lawyer, saying the minute you contribute funds, then it’s yours, no matter if it’s raising taxes or otherwise,” Mr. Peets said. “The loss of the internet service, we can work with that. Broadband is something that can be done. It would be a public internet connection for people who pull up into the parking lot.”
He said they could not take over the library without consent from voters, who turned down a proposition previously. Since then, the town has also gone through a reassessment of properties, which he said made it bad timing to ask voters to pay for a library.
“We would have to have their consent or we would move on. Basically, the voters shot it down the last time it was on the ballot. It got shot down before, and I think it would get shot down again because nobody wants to pay more taxes,” Mr. Peets said. “I appreciate Dr. Badenhausen’s gift. I think it was awesome for her to do that for her community. But, at this particular point you have to go with what your residents want and at this particular point they voted it down. So, to step in and do something is not what the voters want.”
If voters were to petition to have the library placed on the ballot, he said, “I argue that it should be more than just Brasher. It should be Stockholm and Lawrence, too.”
As of now, though, the library’s doors will be closed by the end of the year.
“Without a secure and stable source of funding, financial management and commitment, the Massena Public Library Board of Trustees has unfortunately decided that the Badenhausen Library can no longer be practically operated and will need to close,” library trustees said in a press release.
They said reading materials will be distributed to area libraries and organizations, according to Dr. Badenhausen’s wishes in her Gift Agreement with the Massena Public Library.
“Any funds remaining after closing expenses will be donated to the Dr. D. Susan Badenhausen Legacy Fund held at the Northern New York Community Foundation,” library trustees said. “This Fund will continue Dr. Badenhausen’s investment in programs enhancing the general health and well-being of St. Lawrence County residents, as well as arts, culture, education and wildlife conservation and preservation, in perpetuity.”
To contribute to the fund, contact the Northern New York Community Foundation at nnycf.org.