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Voters reject Southold Free Library expansion

Voters rejected Saturday a proposed multimillion-dollar expansion of the Southold Free Library that would have raised taxes and nearly doubled the size of the existing building, the library's director said.

The vote was 582-402, said director Caroline MacArthur.

Had the proposition passed, the expansion would have added 7,700 square feet to the 9,000-square-foot building, which serves the hamlets of Southold and Peconic.

Part of the expansion cost would have come from two large bequests and independent fundraising, but taxpayers would have been responsible for $6 million of the $7.25 million price tag.

"My sense is that people are disenchanted with the state of affairs right now in the community at large, between the economic situation [and] the political situation," MacArthur said.

Excluding anticipated offsets, the library expansion would have added for the next two decades $18 per $1,000 of assessed value to homeowners' tax bills, or $115 to $135 a year for an average home assessed at $6,800, she said.

The library board has said the building needs extra space to expand services, including for teenagers and children, and to make a 120-seat community meeting room that could be used even when the library is closed.

The project would have also included a quiet reading room, more public computers, more shelving space, a bigger circulation desk, a self-checkout machine and more parking.

The library's last expansion was finished in 1991.

MacArthur, who called Saturday's results "a shortsighted decision," said she and the board would rework the plan and "hopefully bring it back in the future."

"We're still sorely lacking in space to give our patrons the optimal library services that they request and desire," she said.

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