Monday, May 13, 2013

Who Owns the N.H. "Public" Library?

Seems like a silly question who owns a "public" library . . . but there are indications that all in New Hartford is not what it seems. . . .

At the end of April in an OD article about New Hartford's handling of FOIL appeals was this teaser:
Wiatr’s request for a legal opinion from town Attorney Herbert Cully regarding the New Hartford Public Library and its ownership was the most controversial.
The relationship between attorney and client, in this case the Town Board, is a main reason why Cully said he was uncomfortable in allowing his opinion to be released. Also, in potential future litigations, his opinion could be construed as the town’s view.
Certainly the "client" the Town Board could authorize release of this opinion. Why did it not? Don't Town taxpayers have a right to this information?

The plot thickened yesterday by an OD letter to the editor "New Hartford Library owes public an explanation" (scroll down) which called the owners "a mystery."

The mystery deepens when you consider that the 1993 land sale agreement uses the language "the Seller agrees to sell to the Town of New Hartford" but the deed to the property is made out to the "Board of Trustees of the New Hartford Public Library of the Town of New Hartford, New York" . . . Shortly thereafter the Town Board approved bonding $600,000.00 for construction of the library . . . on property that was not deeded to the Town, apparently.

So, just who does own the New Hartford "Public" Library?


Anonymous said...

Who owns the library is a mystery...but its no mystery on who should own it: The people of New Hartford who fund it! Can you imagine what would have happened if this had gotten out before last year's rechartering vote?

Keith said...

The paperwork is sloppy but it appears that the land was purchased by the Library Board. I'm working from memory which is risky since it was almost 20 years ago but if I remember correctly the bond issue was defeated and construction funds were raised by donations and fund raisers.

If that is true (the town didn't buy the land or fund the construction) why would one expect that the town would own the property? The town has provided a large portion of the operating funds for the library program but one could argue that they have had years of rent free use of a facility built with private funds.

Strikeslip said...

Interesting, Keith. I will look into this further.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, Government (ie taxpayer money) was also used to fund the library construction and the plan was turn it over to the Town.

The next problem is that new trustees were never told that they became part owners of a library when they became a trustee.

If the library is owned by a private group, why wasn't the public informed during the run up before last August's rechartering vote? It sounds like a lie of omission to me.

Regardless how anyone spins this: if the library is going to promote itself as a public library and it will be taxpayer funded, then it needs to be in taxpayer hands.

Former Library Trustee said...


Keith is wrong on ALL counts. An article written by Kathrin Chavez, Observer Dispatch dated December 31,1993, page 3A (Local Section) informs the reader that former Senator William Sears, R47 obtained a $100,000 state grant for the purchase of the library property and other expenses - ON BEHALF OF THE TOWN!

Ms. Chavez goes on to say, "The library board also will seek state and federal grants to raise the money needed to finish the second stage."

The library did get State & Federal Aid.

The Deed currently in the name of the NH Library Trustees must now be Deeded to the Town. The town people own the library not the library trustees.

Anonymous said...

Government "gives" money to non profits all of the time for many functions. The taxpayers who form the source of the goverment money have no say in how these organiozations are run. In the New Hartford library's instance, does not the Town have some representation? In any event, the Town Board can alter funding anytime it decides to do so. It is hard to imagine why ownership of the land and buliding are important issues.

Keith said...

I'm not trying to be argumentative but I don't see how the additional information makes me wrong on all counts. The state grant secured by Senator Donovan was a significant part of the $1.5 million building project but not the only or even the largest part.

What I wrote was that the voters of the town rejected the bond issue and I still believe that to be true. It would be interesting to see the financials of the building project because at this point I don't remember any town money going into the project.

However, I'm not asking for anyone to research just to satisfy my curiosity. The deed for the property is whatever it is.

Anonymous said...


Once again, Keith is wrong is his "assumptions." NYS Education Law prohibits a municipally chartered library from having property in the name of the Trustees. There are several NYS Decisions where the library trustees were Ordered by the Court to turn over the Deed to the Town.

Keith said...

Anonymous @ 6:58

The town provides the majority of the Library funding. It also has the power to appoint Library Board members. During Earl Reed's tenure this responsibility was ignored and the Library Board began self appointing. Things are a bit better now.

Anonymous said...

WE THE PEOPLE, own the New Hartford Public Library!