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Cortland Free Library Board Listens to Community Members Voice Their Opinion on Homeless Issue at Library


There were a number of people to voice their concerns regarding the atmosphere at the Cortland Free Library during last night’s board meeting, but also a number voicing their support for the work the library is doing.

Last night’s meeting ended up being held in the basement of the United Presbyterian Church, across the street from the library to accommodate the number of people attending the meeting.

In total, over 50 people attended the meeting.

Before the meeting began, Board President, Lauren Mossotti-Kline, reminded those attending of the rules and the meeting would remain respectful at all times. Before the much anticipated public comment portion of the meeting, Major Corinne Hayes of the Salvation Army was asked to speak to both the board and audience.

Major Hayes discussed the Salvation Army’s mission and spoke on their warming shelter on Main Street in Cortland, which is open from 8pm to 8am during the winter months. She continued on saying there is a set of rules each person visiting the shelter must adhere to and they are then asked to sign acknowledging those said rules.

When asked by the board on the possibility of expanding the hours of the warming shelter at the Salvation Army, Hayes said at the moment it is not feasible, citing the other services offered by the Salvation Army would interfere with the large operation of a 24/7 warming shelter.

It is to note the Salvation Army is not the only warming shelter in the Cortland area, Grace & Holy Spirit Church on Court Street in the City of Cortland has a warming shelter with hours of operation from 4:30 to 8 pm on weekdays and 8am to 8pm on weekends.

Before the public comment section began, each speaker would be limited to 2 minutes and were directed to speak only towards Board President, Lauren Mossotti-Kline.

There were twelve people total who spoke during the public comment portion of the board meeting. A majority of those speaking all voiced their opinions and concerns with the current status of the library.

Overall concerns brought up were the loitering at the front steps to the building, reported drug use at the library, cleanliness, it being used as a shelter with persons sleeping and setting up areas within the building, overall public safety, and more.

Budd Rigg, was one of the persons who spoke during the public comment section. Rigg was a former public servant as Undersheriff for the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office. Rigg spoke on how he realizes this ongoing issue is bigger than just the library, but it is an impacting issue at the library. He goes on the issues at the library are more than just homelessness, it is the drug use and there needs to be control and accountability at the library for these issues.

More comments made by those attending included the opinion that if the issues ongoing at the library were happening at a local bar, that bar would be shut down. One person cited events occurring at the library including people screaming at one another, fighting, drug dealing, and drug use. The board was also given a paper with the reported police calls to the library in the past year.

Overall, the consensus of those speaking with their concerns on the homeless issue say they will not visit the Cortland Free Library anymore. Some even mentioned they have begun visiting other libraries instead, including Homer.

Not all of those speaking during the public comment were raising concerns about the library. One speaker, Dean O’Gorman, spoke that the library is a community and it applies to everyone including those who are experiencing homelessness. O’Gorman continued saying he applauds the library’s efforts in addressing the issue and reminded that the library is a public space and not private.

He continued on saying those working at the library themselves don’t feel uncomfortable or unsafe. It was also brought up that if there are concerns about the homelessness issue, residents shouldn’t be going after the library, but attend their legislative and other government meetings to raise awareness and call to action on the issue.

“Those are the people (in government) who are paid to fix this issue (homelessness). Not our library staff. Our library staff is treating people [as] people in our community equally and it needs to continue to do that.” O’Gorman said.

Possible ideas were brought up too by some residents who voiced their concerns and/or opinions. Some of the thoughts were to set up a specific gathering space inside the library where people may talk to one another, another setting up a similar type of rules notice as the Salvation Army with rules being in a clearly visible area upon entrance to the library.

After the public comment, the board did not speak on any of the issues brought up by those who spoke. It is likely the board will review what was said and look into possible solutions or actions and next steps to bring the community together once again at the Cortland Free Library.

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