Home Suburban Suburban News Potential grant earmarked for expansion of teen programs at Sayreville Public Library

Potential grant earmarked for expansion of teen programs at Sayreville Public Library

SAYREVILLE – The Sayreville Borough Council is considering a $425,000 grant from the state to assist in the $850,000 expansion of the borough’s public library that will accommodate teenage patrons.

On April 13, the council passed a resolution authorizing the application for a grant for the expansion of the Sayreville Public Library, Washington Road, through funds available from the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act. Council President Mary Novak and Councilmembers Kevin Dalina, Damon Enriquez, Michele Maher and Dave McGill voted “yes” on submitting the grant application; Councilwoman Donna Roberts voted “no”.

The New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, according to the resolution, authorizes the issuance of $125 million in state general obligation bonds to provide grants for the construction, reconstruction, development, extension, improvement and furnishing of public libraries throughout the state. The first solicitation for grant applications was issued in January with $87.5 million in general funding.

According to Leah Kloc, the library director, the project will cost $850,000.

The resolution states that the governing body has determined that in the event that the Borough of Sayreville and the Sayreville Public Library are awarded the grant, the borough and library will take the necessary action to authorize sufficient funds to match the $425,000 grant for the project.

Chief Financial Officer Denise Biancamano informed the governing body that the intent of the application is to pursue the potential funds from the state and they are not bonding for the library expansion with the application.

“We’re not agreeing to do a bond,” Biancamano said. “We’re agreeing to apply for this grant. If the grant was approved, a bond ordinance would be put in place to secure the matching funds for the financing of this grant should the council and the mayor decide to move forward with accepting the grant.”

Roberts said she voted “no” because she took issue with the application since it is for a matching grant.

“That means if Sayreville is awarded a grant, the Sayreville taxpayers will also incur an expense of an equal or greater amount to the grant provided. That means, directly or indirectly, a bigger tax bill for our residents,” she said. “Now, let me clarify, just because this is a matching grant should not prevent us from applying for it; however, I argue that we should have a complete conversation that includes both the benefits and consequences and make a balanced decision on whether the grant works for Sayreville at this time or not.”

The council’s action follows Library Board members appearing before the governing body on March 9 to present on the planned expansion. The board members explained that the expansion is intended to accommodate teenagers who use the library after school.

“We’ve had an ongoing problem after school with the kids coming in from the middle school and the high school,” Kloc said. “We get an average of 100 children a day that come into the library after school. They’re loud, they’re rambunctious, they want to eat snacks, and they want to make a mess. A lot of times, we have to ask some kids to leave the library and we really don’t like to do that.

“The other problem is that it’s disruptive for other patrons,” she continued. “If we have adults in the library trying to get some work done or find some quiet time, they’re not able to do it if there are a large numbers of teens in the library. Even if they’re not acting up, just the level when they speak can be loud enough to disrupt people. It’s not that they’re bad kids, it’s just that there are a lot of them and they just get out of school and they’re like that.”

Kloc also explained that the library’s room for teenagers is next to the library’s quiet room.

“The way our library is set up is that the teen room is right next to what’s called our quiet room,” the library director said. “Our quiet room is our silent room and that’s where people go to read. You’re not allowed to talk in there and the teen room is right next to it. So anybody who wants to go in there and take an online test, study or just read the newspaper in peace have this noise coming from the teen room. On the other side of the teen room, teachers tutor after school.
“The teens congregate in different parts of the library and they’ll sit wherever there’s room to sit. We don’t have that much space, even for the adults, so the teens sit on the floor. They’re trying to charge their phones with their wires coming across the aisles where people can trip on them. We just don’t have the space to accommodate them and we want to accommodate them. We want them to come to the library, we like to have them there and we hope they’ll become lifelong library users.”
According to Hannah Lee, the head of Youth Services, a tenth of the library’s space is allocated for teenagers.

Roberts said she appreciates the hard work of the library staff, and agrees it is disruptive when teenagers do not have options on where to go to direct their time and energy.

“Maybe a better way to address the problem with teens at the library after school and many needing the use of computers can be addressed in another way,” the councilwoman said. “Since the problem occurs after schools are dismissed, maybe a better solution is to utilize the existing space we have in both the high school and middle school to fill this gap? This doesn’t seem to be a library problem, but a problem of idle time.

“Don’t we have the ability to solve this problem with the resources we already have by allocating our resources more constructively? Would it be more cost-effective for students who use the library computers for homework to provide loaner computers to them during the school year to be able to do their homework at home also?”

Architect Pete Campisano informed the council that construction on the project is not expected to begin until 2021.

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