Brasher may not pick up tab for library

The Badenhausen Branch of the Massena Public Library. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

BRASHER FALLS — Town of Brasher officials say that, with the recent reassessment of properties and its financial impact on property owners, they’re not likely to pick up the tab for the Badenhausen Branch of the Massena Public Library when funding expires at the end of the year.

The library opened its doors on Dec. 11, 2014 in the former Boothe Hardware Store in downtown Brasher Falls, and the Massena Public Library has been operating it at $65,000 a year.

Current funding for the library comes from donations from the late Dr. D. Susan Badenhausen. Dr. Badenhausen, who died on Sept. 23, 2018, initially donated $55,000 a year for at least three years and, in June 2016, pledged to continue her support for another five years at the increased funding of $65,000 a year.

Dr. Badenhausen’s donations paid for everything in the branch library, from furniture and computers, to two employees and bills like rent and electricity, to books, DVDs, magazines and newspapers. It also covered the cost of the renovation project, in which the contractor donated half his time. If the library were to close, all items would come to the Massena Public Library.

The funding will end on Dec. 31 and so will the obligation from the Massena Public Library to operate the facility.

“It’s very bad timing,” Brasher Town Supervisor Mark A. Peets said.

That’s because the town has just completed its first town-wide reassessment in 15 years, impacting tax bills for residents in the town.

Mr. Peets said the issue was discussed during the last meeting of the Brasher Town Board, and not knowing the exact amount taxes would go up for residents after the reassessment was a concern to its members.

“Basically we said that $65,000 would be 60 cents per thousand (of assessed value) in people’s taxes. Going through a reval and then having to pick up 60 cents per thousand on your budget, that’s a lot of money,” he said.

Mr. Peets said he has discussed the town’s position with Massena Public Library Director Elaine Dunne.

“It’s not that the town doesn’t want to have that service. It’s just not good for the town at this particular point,” he said.

He said one of the concerns he heard was the ability to connect to the library’s Wi-Fi from outside the building would go away.

“If that’s the case, the town can make Wi-Fi available to them in the parking lot,” Mr. Peets said.

Voters in portions of Brasher, Louisville and Norfolk voted 1,640 to 892 last year on a proposition that would have made the Massena Public Library a school district library. If passed, the cost of running the library would have been spread out between residents of the towns of Massena and Louisville and portions of Brasher and Norfolk who live within the boundaries of the Massena Central School District.

The amount to be levied would have been $14,476 in Brasher, and the owner of a property assessed at $50,000 in Brasher would have paid a $55 library district tax.

“The state really wants them to go through the school. I think going through the school may be a better avenue. There are four towns that actually contribute to the St. Lawrence Central budget rather than just us,” Mr. Peets said.

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