COLTS NECK – The Colts Neck Branch of the Monmouth County Library is dedicating March to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the library building, located on the campus of the township offices on 1 Winthrop Drive announced Michele Battista, current president of the Friends of the Colts Neck Library.
It was March 1, 2000, when the Colts Neck Library Foundation turned over the 8,500 square foot two story building free and clear to the Township Committee, culminating an effort that drew together municipal leaders and local residents in their effort to make a 100 percent debt free gift of the library and Learning Center without using a single tax dollar.
Efforts to build the library began in 1998, fulfilling the vision first captured in the 1960s Township Master Plan which called for a formal library. With no action taken in the interim years, the late Tom McClintock, who had served both as a committeeman for many years then Mayor for several terms, wanted to see the dream fulfilled before he retired from public office. McClintock was so dedicated towards seeing the library built that he made a $50,000 personal donation that kicked off an effort by local residents to create the nonprofit Library Foundation and a Foundation Board to oversee donations.
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Serving on that initial board were Sal Barbagallo, who served as Construction Chairman, and used his personal knowledge and relationship with local builders to keep the cost of materials, labor and services low. Barbagallo’s wife, the late Mary Barbagallo, volunteered her services as administrator of the paperwork involved in the non-profit. Local resident Don Burry served as Finance Chair as well as serving as a continuing member of the construction committee.
Sal Barbagallo initiated the idea of “Be a Friend, Buy a Brick,” a campaign that resulted in residents making donations totaling $139,000 each then being inscribed on one of the library’s 1,300 engraved pavers which remain the walkways to the building today.
Dave Rodetsky was the architect of the 18th century style building, both he and Jim Montgeforte as Project Architect donated their talents to keep costs down, along with A.J Garito, who was consulting engineer. Mayor Michael Southcott continued to support the efforts and work that made the facility possible without raising taxes.
Others serving on the original Foundation included Diane Piotrowski, Jill Valentino and the late Ben Forester, whose fund raising efforts and leadership ran from creating and selling cookbooks, holding a concert and an auction, and encouraging local businesspeople to donate equipment and materials. School children collected funds to donate their own paver on the walk, and local scout troops did the same.
Donations were so generous and the community was so involved in the prospect of having its own library building that then Mayor Lillian Burry obtained a $100,000 grant from the state and a $35,000 donation from the County, and at the groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 12, 1998, Geraldo Rivera participated in digging the first hole and contributed $500. When the Library officially opened on May 27, 2000 more than one third of the residents of Colts Neck had made donations of time, money, experience, talent and dedication.
After construction was complete, the Board of Trustees for the Foundation was dissolved, and replaced by the Friends of the Library, with McClintock, named president . Others on the first Friends Board included Al Donado and Art Goodwin, bot h now deceased, as well as, Burry, and Mary Barbagallo holding office. At McClintock’s retirement the following year, Donado replaced him as president for five years. Attorney John Aiello and his firm drew up the papers and prepared bylaws and ensured the new nonprofit organization met all requirements.
Others who have served on the Board included Mary Ellen Griffin, Kelly Taylor, and today’s president Battista.
Continuing to work towards goals expressed but not realized, the Board created the Children’s Learning Garden in 2003 with master gardener Arnold Kleeberg serving as overseer. Today, the Library continues to be one of the busiest locations in the township, and as a branch of the Monmouth County facility continues to provide residents with both online services, and in house cultural activities, programs, and educational activities, all started because a former Mayor and a group of citizens wanted to fulfill the 1960s plan for a township library facility without costing a single tax dollar.
In addition to Battista, other officers of the 2020 Friends group are Vice President: LiliAnn Paras, Recording Secretary: Amy Eschinger, Corresponding Secretary: Ien Yoe, Treasurer: Bonita Lee and Garden liaison: Gretchen Van Benthuysen. Mary McQuarrie is the children’s librarian and a new librarian manager is anticipated to be named shortly. Other current Friends members include Arnold Kleeberg, John and Joanne Jacoby, Mil Wexler-Kobrinski, Eileen Petruch, Nancy Cohen, Betty Crescibene, Ginny Russell, Chris Hellstrom and Joanna Vroman.