Referendum for Library—or Community Center—Almost Set
Borough Council hammers out wording for non-binding referendum.
Watchung voters will be asked for their positions on the proposed $4.2 million library expansion, with its community center component, in November, but the Borough Council will have to approve the wording of the referendum at its Aug. 16 meeting.
Questions to be included on ballots must be submitted to the county by Aug. 18, and the council spent some its July 19 meeting hammering out the language to be used.
At the meeting, council members Stephen Pote and Karen Cassidy argued the referendum should be worded to make sure residents know the project includes the creation of a community center, and is more than just a rennovation project.
"The whole concept of this public library/community center is that it's a place to congregate, a place to meet, a public forum," Pote said. "Yes, it has additional room upstairs, but I think there needs to be more of a communication that this is our communty center."
Councilwoman Karen Cassidy suggested including a statement the project includes "the creation of a community center," to highlight the fact it's not just an expansion of the library.
"I thnk if the public is thinking of this as just a rennovation of the library, and addition of a room, it will be less palatable," Cassidy said.
The council also decided to include wording to note the building will be fully handicapped accessible. The final referendum question agreed on is: "Should the mayor and Borough Council of the Borough of Watchung appropriate $4.2 million for the expansion and rennovation of the borough library, inclusive of a community center, as recommended by the volunteer study committee by adding 9,000 sq. feet to the existing facility, with the associated parking and other site improvements, all compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act?"
Discussion of the accompanying interpretive statement proved more troublesome, as Pote and Cassidy argued the question should be fairly explicit in noting the borough would seek non-taxpayer funding for much of the project.
But Council President Deb Joren pointed out the council has not made any formal commitments for any funding, and so shouldn't get into such specifics. She said the interpretive statement shouldn't say anything more than the borough will be seeking to raise as much by donations and grants as possible.
"This is basically to get the indication of what our residents are feeling in terms of the new library," Joren said. "In the end run, it's going to be our decision no matter what the vote is, it's non-binding."