A  Letter from Mayor Andes

I would like to give you a little background regarding the proposed library expansion.  In today’s modern world, it is important to make the distinction between modern libraries and the  libraries of the past, which were often cold buildings filled with books and coin operated copy machines. With the advent of computers, it is easy to think libraries are a dying relic of the past.  However, to the contrary, many libraries have evolved and the Denville Public Library thru its evolution is as popular as ever.  The Denville library has embraced technology, runs interactive programs for people of all ages, promotes educational shows, craft programs and has taken the initiative to go out into the community to bring the Library to the people. All this while still promoting literacy and lifelong learning.

A review of the library’s calendar of events/programs from previous months highlights the array of the creative programs offered on a daily or multiple times per day basis: https://www.denvillelibrary.org/calendar-main/

The meeting/event room in the library is small and forces a limit on the attendees. This room is booked to capacity and patrons who want to participate in these programs are turned away on almost a daily basis.  One of the primary objectives of the library expansion is to build a second meeting room, which will enable more programs with more individuals and families able to participate. The second objective is aimed at enlarging the children’s area, which if you are familiar with the library can only currently accommodate a handful of kids.

The renovations that were completed about 10 years ago have made the Library a warm and inviting place for the community to gather. Those improvements were paid for by the library, utilizing the statutory allocation of funds they receive to operate on an annual basis. The Township provided a loan to the library to make up for the shortfall in construction cost, which was paid back completely in just a few years.

It has been about 20 years since the State of New Jersey has had a Library construction grant program.  We all pay taxes to the State of New Jersey and I am a firm believer if the State (or federal) government is giving away money for a program that can benefit our community, we want to make sure we attempt to get our share.  If we do not apply for this grant, the State is simply going to give the funding away to other municipalities, which we are paying for out of our State tax dollars.  As mentioned, the amount of money the tax payers of Denville pay in taxes to the Library is predetermined by a State formula. We could not pay less if we wanted to by law.  Since the last renovations were completed, the Library Board has saved over $700,000 of their funds towards a possible expansion. This facility is open to all 16,635 residents of our community and gets thousands of visitors on an annual basis.

The Township of Denville is also a big proponent of the Community Gardens. Gardening is a wonderful activity with the so many great benefits.  I am well aware of the overwhelming generosity of the Denville gardeners over the years. On a personal note, I grew up with my grandfather teaching me about gardening and had a backyard garden for many years when my children were small, so I know firsthand the rewards gardening provides.  The Gardens are a wonderful activity and the gardeners have a connection to their plots which is understandable.  That is why when the grant was announced and the Board began to explore to expand the Library, I asked them to take every consideration into account for the Gardeners and attempt to minimize the impact to the gardens to the greatest extent possible.

With respect to the proposed expansion plans, the property where the library is located has its share of challenges. Right behind the Library, the ground slopes into the flood plain which limits expansion in that direction.  The Historical Society shares the parking lot with the library and the parking lot cannot be extended towards the river due to the location of the flood plain. The suggestion of putting the parking lot on the other side of the Historical Society would require the Historical Society to eliminate their garden and would obscure the view of the historical structure. The concept of putting the parking in Hogan’s Park, which is also in the flood plain would also see challenges with seeking County and State approval due to where the parking lot exit would need to be in relation to the traffic light.

After the November 2017 State-wide referendum that was approved by the voters to provide funding for library construction or expansion, I knew there was a possibility that some of gardens might be impacted. I instructed the Recreation Director to advise the Garden Administrator to not allow any new people to take over a garden that was given up.  This would ensure that all existing gardeners would still have a plot. Of course, I also asked the library board to limit the impact to the Community Gardens to the greatest extent possible.

As the plan started to move along, I advised the Director of the Library, Township Administrator and Recreation Director to meet with the Garden Administrator.  We wanted to ensure the Garden Administrator had the latest updates which he could share with the gardeners and also was able to share input on behalf of the gardeners with the Township and Library.  They met on at least 4 occasions dating back to mid-2019, when the first rough conceptual plan was drafted.  The resolution that appeared on the March 17, 2020 agenda was scheduled many weeks ahead of the meeting as it was the last public meeting prior to the grant application deadline. It was disheartening to find out that the Gardeners got a letter from the Garden Administrator that painted a different picture.

I think it is important to note that this year, the gardens will not be effected by any possible construction. If and when we are notified that we are receiving a grant, we will work with the Library Board to finalize the plans at that time.

Based upon the grant application that was submitted, I can tell you that 1 row of gardens will be permanently removed and each of these gardeners will be assigned a different plot. No gardener will be displaced. If requested by the Gardner, the Township will assist in moving any existing fencing. During construction, 1 row of gardens will be temporarily lost. It is estimated this will endure for 1 growing season. These gardeners too will be reassigned another plot during construction. If requested by the temporarily displaced gardener, the Township will also assist in moving any fencing. When construction is complete, the temporarily displaced gardener will have the first opportunity to return to their original plot. The parking lot will go in the front of the Community Gardens with the drainage going towards the Library then down to into the river in accordance with all State construction and NJ DEP water run off requirements. Any effected Communal Items such as the bulletin board or water lines will be relocated by the Township. Additional and appropriate trees and shrubs will be added for aesthetic purposes. And, based upon the layout of the proposed expansion and parking lot, we fully anticipate the ability to create an additional row of gardens and be ultimately able to accommodate more members of our community who want to be assigned a plot.

If the grant was approved, early in the process, to assure public participation the application will be presented to the Planning Board for their review.  The Board always welcomes public questions and opinions.

Therefore, recognizing the inconvenience, it would be our intention that when the library expansion is complete, we intend to improve the entire area, including the community gardens, so that the finished product is something we can all be proud of.

Neither the Library Board, Township Council or myself want to hurt anyone.  We see an opportunity thru an available grant program to enhance the library for the 16,000+ people of Denville for future generations and thereby improve access to books and literacy, technology, programs and good community centered around songs, crafts and knowledge.

Sincerely

Tom Andes