WATCHUNG, NJ – In a repeat of the Watchung Borough Council’s action on April 19, the council voted Thursday night to not renovate the existing Watchung Library building or build a new library, however, a comment from a resident during the public commentary portion of the meeting gave hope to those who want to keep a library in Watchung.
The Watchung Library is a branch of the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey ( SCLSNJ), which currently has 10 libraries. The borough pays $800,000 annually to be part of SCLSNJ, and will continue to do so even if the Watchung Library closes.
Guishan Chhabra offered to pay the cost of building a new library, at no cost to taxpayers, as long as the Borough applies for matching funds. He received a standing ovation from the crowd.
The meeting followed an executive session meeting with discussion of the lawsuit, Keep a Library in Watchung v Borough of Watchung, on the agenda. The borough’s attorney explained that a part of the suit alleges that the Watchung Borough Council violated the open public meetings act on April 19 and a revote cures that count of the suit.
Mayor Stephen Pote appointed a committee of three council members, Council President Robert Gibbs, and councilmen Dave Mobus and Bill Nehls, to explore Chhabra’s offer as well as other possible alternatives.
Gibbs volunteered to take the lead."Speaking for myself, I very much appreciate any and all ideas that may present realistic and viable alternatives to the closure of the existing library facility and that could result in full service library remaining within the borough.”
Watchung Hills student Kaelin Churchill remembered going to the library as a child. She said,” it was very very important to me.It was where I learned social skills and about the environment and all the other important things that make me a person as I am today. Just to imagine kids in the future lacking that hurts me a lot.”
Other residents wearing purple, the color chosen to represent saving a library in Watchung, spoke in support of keeping a library in Watchung.
Due to the funds made available this year , the overwhelming point made was, “This is the year, if we’re going to do it, do it now.”
Pote said, “We need to listen to the residents. I believe that a majority of the residents either want the library or wouldn't oppose a new or renovated building. We need to take advantage of this state funding and stop dragging our feet on something that's important to the town."
The 2012 referendum that was voted down asked ,“Should the Mayor and Borough Council of the Borough of Watchung appropriate up to $4.2 million dollars for the expansion and renovation of the Borough Library, inclusive of a Community Center, as recommended by the volunteer Library Study Committee, to add 9,000 square feet to the existing Library with associated parking and other site improvements all compliant with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act?”
For more on April 19, see
Watchung Borough Council Votes to Close Library
TAPinto is free and published daily
Get Your Town's News In Your Inbox: Click Here to sign up