Referendum set on $4.4M Stillwater Public Library plan

Photo shows the exterior of 712 Hudson Ave. in Stillwater, site of the former Stillwater Fiber Mill, a potential home for a new, larger Stillwater Public Library. Inset photo shows the current library at 662 Hudson Ave.
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Photo shows the exterior of 712 Hudson Ave. in Stillwater, site of the former Stillwater Fiber Mill, a potential home for a new, larger Stillwater Public Library. Inset photo shows the current library at 662 Hudson Ave.

STILLWATER — Voters will have their say Oct. 5 on a $4.4 million project that would more than triple the size of the Stillwater Public Library.

The plan calls for the purchase of the Stillwater Fiber Mill at 712 Hudson Ave., a former factory converted into apartments that stands several hundred feet from the current library, a 147-year-old church with limited space and limited access for patrons with disabilities.

“The current facility was built in 1874 so the spacing doesn’t really allow for the collection we need,” Library Director Sara Kipp said Friday.

The former St. John’s Episcopal Church has been home to the library since 1959, and is only the second building the library has occupied since its formation in 1949.

Interior space measures 2,650 square feet and is divided inefficiently, with a number of levels connected only by stairs. The children’s and teens’ collections are particularly affected by this configuration.

Libraries are living collections for the most part, not archives, Kipp said, and they are winnowed periodically to remove items people aren’t using to make room for more-relevant items.

“Some collections, you would want to keep everything,” she said. Others are thinned every five years or so.

Stillwater uses a more accelerated schedule because it doesn’t have space for everything.

The current library also doesn’t have space for events, which is a problem.

“Programming is huge, and in a small town there’s not many places to go,” Kipp said.

Even before the pandemic halted tight-packed public gatherings, the current library building just couldn’t fit a large crowd.

The referendum is seeking permission to spend up to $4.4 million on buying and converting the Fiber Mill, a short distance north of the current library on Route 4.

Projected cost to property owners would be $35.18 per year for each $100,000 of assessed property value for 20 years. The library will seek donations and grants to reduce the taxpayer cost.

The village’s two representatives in the state Legislature, Assembly Member Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, and Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, last week announced success on that front: a $337,500 state grant toward purchase of the Fiber Mill.

The mill will make a good home for the library, Kipp said, and at 8,528 square feet, should provide enough space now and for years to come.

It’s a solidly constructed building and its structural components were not modified during the conversion to apartments, she said. The interior will have to be reverted from apartments to open space, and a two-story lobby with elevator will be constructed.

“The bones of it are sturdy,” Kipp said, and well suited for the project.

Like the existing library, the Fiber Mill sits on the edge of the Hudson River, but it’s out of the flood zone.

Water rises into the parking lot of the current library almost every year but has never gotten into the building, Kipp said.

Public informational meetings are planned for 6 p.m. Sept. 17 in Glen Hollow Park off Lake Road and 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at a location to be determined. The public referendum will be noon to 9 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Stillwater Central School.

If voters approve the project, planning will begin this autumn, construction will begin in 2022, and occupancy is targeted for November 2023.

The library would remain open in its current location until the project is complete. Village officials have expressed interest in potentially using the former church as village offices after the library collection is moved out.

Reach John Cropley at [email protected], 518-395-3104 or @cropjohn on Twitter.

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