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Library officials waiting to hear from BOCES on rent offer

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MASSENA — Massena Public Library officials say they have not yet heard from officials with the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services about paying rent for their use of a classroom space at the library.

“I don’t know if they’re interested,” library Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer told members of the library’s Board of Trustees Tuesday night.

“They owe us an answer. You need to hear a little bit so you’ve got some options with the room,” board member Robert Manning said.

He suggested giving BOCES a Dec. 1 deadline to reply to the library’s proposal.

If they want to continue using the room, a rental agreement would need to be drawn up and reviewed by the town’s attorney.

“I think December 1 might be fair,” Ms. Dunne-Thayer said, noting BOCES Adult Education Supervisor Lisa McKeel had wanted to approach the BOCES board before giving library officials an answer.

Should BOCES decide not to stay in the space, she suggested it could be rented out to other organizations.

The subject of charging rental space for the BOCES adult education classroom, located in the library’s lower level, has been on the library board’s agenda for several months. Board members said during their October meeting that they had asked BOCES officials to begin paying rent on the 980-square-foot space, which they have been using rent-free.

Library officials say the space accounts for 8 percent of the library, which translates to $2,960.96 a year, or approximately $250 a month. They’ve offered to lease the space to BOCES for about $300 a month, which covers two hours of cleaning each week, along with the costs of service for the Massena Electric Department, St. Lawrence Gas and Wi-Fi through Slic.

BOCES has used the space rent-free since January 2012 when it teamed up with the library to convert a room that had been used for Friends of the Library book sales into an adult education classroom.

Classes started Jan. 17, 2012, as part of the BOCES adult education Gateway To College and Careers program.

The space provides a classroom with seating for 24 individuals, as well as state-of-the-art equipment and an eight-station computer lab. Library officials said at the time they hoped the addition of the classroom would draw more visitors to the facility.

If BOCES elects not to retain the room, the equipment that belongs to BOCES would be removed, Ms. Dunne-Thayer said.

Ms. McKeel had noted in October that funding for the adult education programs comes from tuition and grants, and that the BOCES fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, making the request for rent now five months into the budget season.

However, she said, BOCES officials were looking at their budget to see where to come up with the funding, and suggested that it would have been easier to discuss at the beginning of the fiscal year.

At the same time, the BOCES adult education program is also facing financial difficulties, with Literacy Zone grant funding from the federal government being reduced by $150,000, according to Ms. McKeel.

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