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Dissolution of library likely

Jan. 28, 2014

Town of Lisbon— Village officials have turned down an offer from the Town of Lisbon to begin negotiations on the termination of the agreement between the two municipalities that provides for governance and most of the funding of the Pauline Haass Library.

Village Administrator Jeremy Smith said the Town Board should be negotiating with the Library Board, not the village.

Interim Town Administrator Elizabeth Kraus said the negotiations should be between the town and village since they created the library.

Town Chairman Matt Gehrke said that termination of the agreement by the town is "a foregone conclusion," and he would like to negotiate dividing the library assets as amicably as possible.

"I would welcome direct negotiations between Lisbon and Sussex that would resolve the division of the library's assets but still allow Sussex to open a new library on secure financial grounds," Gehrke said in an email statement.

The town and village have been unable to reach an agreement on a new funding formula, and the library filed a lawsuit against the town over "control and custody" of the land that the late Pauline Haass donated to the town for library purposes.

Library Board members representing the Village of Sussex and the Hamilton School District have consistently supported the lawsuit while town members of the Library Board with the exception of former Board Chairman Emil Glodoski, have opposed it.

The town has until Oct. 1 to formally notify the village that it wants to terminate the agreement at the end of this year.

According to the agreement reached in 1987, "Should termination of this agreement result in the closing of the library, the assets thereof shall be divided among the two municipalities in accordance with the ration of expense sharing in the average of the five year period preceding said termination."

However, village officials argue there should be no division of the library's assets because the termination of the agreement will not result in the closing of the library since the Village Board intends to continue operations of the library without town funding.

Town officials argue, however, that once the agreement is terminated, the Pauline Haas Library ceases to exist and the assets should be divided. Any library operated in the future by the village is not the same as the existing library.

A telephone conversation between Kraus and Smith last week illustrated another bureaucratic and legal knot that has become wrapped around the library, the town and the village.

Kraus suggested to Smith that the two municipalities attempt to reach a monetary settlement that would divide the assets of the library including allowing the town to maintain possession of the Haass land.

Smith countered that any negotiations involving library assets would have to be between the town and the Library Board, not the village. He alluded to state law which requires that the library board have "control and custody" over all of its assets.

Kraus pointed out that the library was created and funded by the two municipalities and they should have the final say in how the assets are divided.

Smith said the Village Board would go along with any decision regarding the assets made by the Library Board.

If mediation fails, the litigation will continue and probably will not be resolved before the deadline for the town to announce its intention to terminate the agreement.

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