The St. James City Council has agreed to move forward with accepting
the library and two other properties from the James Foundation.
Mayor Dennis Wilson said Tuesday morning that the City Council has decided to move forward with a special meeting in a couple of weeks.
"From the standpoint of accepting the property, the Council agreed that it would be a good thing," Wilson said. "Nobody wants to lose the library or the park."
The James Foundation officially announced on Monday that it is passing full ownership of the St. James Public Library, the St. James Cemetery and St. James Park to the City.
To date, the total operating costs of of all three properties have been covered by The Foundation.
"There is a pretty good bank account for the cemetery," the mayor said. "That's not a real issue. This is a tremendous undertaking for the City, but the council agreed in principal that this is something we can turn down.
"The James Foundation has been a tremendous supporter of the city and has given to us in a lot of ways."
Wilson said the special meeting, scheduled for Nov. 19, will involve discussions about how to incorporate the properties, specifically the library, into the city's budget.
Wilson said there could be $150,000 to $175,000 given by the James Foundation to fund the transition, but an exact figure will not be available until a future date.
According to a letter from Lorie A. Slutsky, president of The New York Community Trust, maintaining Maramec Spring Park with its increased popularity over the years "has absorbed more and more of the James Foundation's limited resources."
"After examining the James Foundation budget and in keeping with Mrs. James' priorities, it is now time for us to turn the library over to you," Slutsky wrote in the letter addressed to the people of St. James. "...The Trust will provide support for the library to smooth the transition. Once the library is a public facility, it will be eligible to apply for government and private grants for which it could not previously apply."
During the City Council meeting, the council discussed the issue in a closed session.
City Administrator Jeff Davis prior to the meeting said no further information would be available until some time Tuesday morning.
"At the end of the day, it's up to the Mayor and the Council to decide what they're going to do," Davis said. "We still have to discuss this with The Foundation before we can arrive with final dollars and cents."
According to the letter, the decision to "hand over" said amenities came after The Foundation board visited in June.
"It's pretty critical that we attack this right way," Davis continued. "It's a lot, there's no question, and this is going to be a good thing at the end of the day – I just want to see if we can get in there and do it and do it right."
Page 2 of 2 - Davis said cost in maintaining the adjacent cemetery is also included in the transition, which should require the least amount of city funds as it is "a self-sustaining entity."
Maintaining the park and the library will require further research and discussion. Davis expects the Mayor and City Council to schedule a work session in the coming weeks.
"I don't think the park is an insurmountable task," Davis continued. "It's probably going to cost us more, but we haven't had a public library in a very long time.
"I forsee participation with a lot of different folks. We're open to all options and we want to look at what's best for our library."
The library was opened in 1953. The Trust designed and erected the building and has funded it for more than 60 years.