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Board agrees to pay utilities in support of reading room at closed library branch

The Town of Tonawanda will pay the new Brighton Reading Room's utilities as a way to support the grass-roots effort to provide a library alternative to residents north of Sheridan Drive.

But not all of the Town Board was in agreement. The board's Republicans voted against the resolution to foot the reading room's bills for eight months. The vote was 5-2.

"I'm disappointed that it wasn't unanimous but thrilled that the vote went our way," said Mike Rizzo, president of Friends of the Brighton Reading Room.

The group has worked for months to convert the former library into a reading room. The Brighton branch was one of three libraries that closed last year due to Erie County's fiscal crisis.

Rizzo said the group has raised more than $8,500 to pay for preparations, such as renovations and purchasing library materials.

In addition to paying utility costs, the Town Board also agreed to allow the Brighton group use the building.

Democratic Councilman John J. Flynn said the town already has allocated $26,000 in the current budget to cover utilities in Brighton and Greenhaven, a branch that also closed.

Flynn said the grass-roots group has a "viable plan" and it will benefit residents north of Sheridan Drive who lost both their neighborhood libraries during the county's cuts.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to provide a reading room for the community," said Democratic Councilwoman Lisa M. Chimera.

The board's two Republicans commended the group for its efforts but said taxpayer dollars should not be used, especially since residents still pay $2 million in library taxes to the county for less service.

"We have half the system we had a year ago," said Supervisor Ronald H. Moline. He said money should go toward the town's planned state-of-the-art library.

"We should embrace a plan that leads to a better library system," he said.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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