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Bayport-Blue Point library considers buying St. Ursula Center

The Ursula Center convent in Blue Point is

The Ursula Center convent in Blue Point is shown on Nov. 24, 2017. Credit: John Roca

Bayport-Blue Point Public Library trustees have renewed their interest in buying a convent after a Westhampton Beach drug treatment center dropped plans last month to buy the home for retired nuns.

Purchasing the St. Ursula Center on Middle Road in Blue Point is one of several options being weighed by library officials as they consider whether to expand the current library on Blue Point Avenue or move to the convent, about a quarter-mile away.

The library, built in the 1950s and renovated about 1990, is cramped and “in sore need of work,” including improved lighting, heating and air-conditioning, and access for disabled users, director Mike Firestone said in an interview.

“We don’t have a lot of seating. We don’t have a lot of computers,” he said. “Every day our meeting space is booked.”

The convent went back on the market last month when the Seafield Center dropped plans to buy the 8.27-acre site for $5.3 million from the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk.

Converting the convent would cost about $11.9 million, not including the price of buying the property, according to a study prepared last year for the library board by Patchogue-based BBS Architects and Engineers.

The same report estimated expanding the current library would cost about $13.5 million, and building a new facility would cost $17.2 million.

Firestone said the library board plans to hire an appraiser to determine the convent’s value. “We know what Seafield offered, but municipalities work in a different way,” Firestone said, referring to the appraisal.

He said a public referendum on either buying and renovating the convent, expanding the current facility or building a new library would be held in late spring or summer.

Trustees must authorize a state-mandated environmental study of the convent site before scheduling a bond vote, Firestone said, adding that the library board is expected to discuss its options when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday at the library.

Sister Joanne Callahan, head of the Ursuline Sisters office in Jamaica, Queens, said several prospective buyers looked at the convent property last week. She said she did not know what those potential buyers want to do with the site, adding she hopes the convent is sold “as soon as possible.”

“With very few people working there and living there, it’s costing us too much to continue to operate,” Callahan said.

She said the order has dwindled to 36 members in New York, Connecticut and Vermont. She declined to say how many live in Blue Point.

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