Village of Sussex - The Pauline Haass Library Board voted 5 to 2 Wednesday night to hire an attorney to begin the process of attempting to take over about 60 acres of land deeded to the Town of Lisbon for library purposes by the late Pauline Haass more than 50 years ago.
The board was warned by one of its trustees, Robert Williams, a former town supervisor, that the action could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses for the library and interfere with on going negotiations between the Village of Sussex and Town of Lisbon over how much money the two communities will contribute to library operations.
Williams pointed out that town officials believe they have sole jurisdiction over the land despite a state law that says all land intended for library purposes should be owned and controlled by library boards.
He recalled how town officials, several years ago, broke off negotiations with the village over a cost sharing contract because library officials had threatened to go to court in an effort to take control of the land.
However, a majority of the board members argued they had a legal and financial obligation to attempt to take "ownership and control" of the land because cost sharing negotiations between the village and town have failed to produce a new agreement. Most of the library's approximately $1.1 million operating budget is paid for by contributions from the two municipalities.
Library Director Kathy Klager said Town Chairman Matt Gehrke has twice threatened to have an existing cost sharing contract terminated unless the Village of Sussex agreed to increase its share of the library costs.
However, two town board members at the meeting said later they believed negotations between the town and village would continue.
"This sure doesn't help matters," added Supervisor Ryan Lippert, also a library board member, who joined with Williams in voting against the legal action.