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Wyandanch library, still shut by pandemic, gets budget OK

A sign posted on the door of the

A sign posted on the door of the Wyandanch Public Library on Aug. 20, 2020, advises users that the library will be "CLOSED until further notice" due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Voters have approved the Wyandanch Public Library’s budget and reelected a trustee in what was one of the last library elections to be held in Suffolk County this year.

The library, which has been closed for more than a year due to what library officials have said are health safety issues with the HVAC system, held the election at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish hall on Tuesday.

The library’s $2.05 million budget for 2021-2022 does not increase the tax levy. Homeowners with an average home value of $400,000 will pay $717. Voters approved the budget 165 to 72.

The election was the last one held for Suffolk libraries with a fiscal year starting July 1, said Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. Of the 45 libraries that have reported so far, 12 are keeping tax levies the same as last year, he said. The average tax increase for the other 33 is 1.15%, he said.

The Wyandanch election pitted incumbent trustee Norman J. Sellers, 52, who works for the LIRR, against challengers Laurie Farber, 66, who runs a nonprofit, and Sam Law, 33, a marketing manager. Sellers, who won election to a vacated seat in 2018, received 135 votes for the five-year position, while Farber got 70 and Law 41.

"I truly appreciate the challenge from the Wyandanch community," Sellers said. He said he is aware of criticisms of the board over the years but said the trustees are working together to create more transparency.

"We have a wheelbarrow full of the past," said Sellers. "Grab a handle and join me in turning it over."

Law is contesting the election results, saying that Sellers illegally dropped off absentee ballots and Farber went into the polling place multiple times.

"I’m not happy and I’m going to pursue this further legally," Law said.

Library director and election clerk Shadd Jamison said Sellers did not hand in any absentee ballots and Farber came into the polling place to vote and twice to use the bathroom.

"She was monitored by myself and two security guards throughout the day and did not talk to any voters or campaign on the premises," Jamison said in an email.

Wyandanch is the only public library on Long Island to remain closed because of the pandemic. The building’s 30-year-old HVAC system needs to be replaced at a cost of $1.2 million to $1.5 million, according to an engineer hired by the library. In late April, the state mandated that all libraries open by June 1 for a minimum of set weekly hours, which for Wyandanch is 35.

At a May 12 zoom meeting, board president Ghenya Grant said Jamison has developed a reopening plan. Verbesey said last week that he has not yet received the plan. Sellers said he is hopeful the library will submit it by the state’s deadline.

The plan is contingent on setting up portable HVAC units for a partial reopening of the building. At the May 12 meeting, the board voted unanimously to contract with Mobile Air & Power Rentals of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, for up to $40,000 for portable units.

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