BUCKFIELD — Selectmen decided to table making a decision on acquiring the Zadoc Long Free Library from its Board of Trustees after questions arose about the library founder’s intent when they examined the original trust deed that established the library in 1901.

At Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, Buckfield Town Manager Cindy Dunn and Selectmen Chairwoman Martha Catevenis agreed that for the most part, there’s been a town-wide assumption that the town has always owned the library at 5 Turner St., and in recent memory, it has been run as a town department.

Dunn discovered the conflict between the library being a town department and a nonprofit organization in October 2014, after the town’s auditor suspected there were two sets of books for the library, which also serves residents in Sumner and Hartford. Dunn met with the library’s Board of Trustees and learned that a former librarian decided to apply for nonprofit status in attempt to secure grants for the library, which was given in April 2009. That status has since expired.

At their last meeting two weeks ago, selectmen authorized Dunn to reach out to town attorney Curtis Webber and try to clear up the ownership and town department-versus-nonprofit issues.

“I agree the documents indicate that for years the library has been treated, for the most part, as a municipal department, but the lines of authority have been blurred,” Webber wrote to Dunn in a March 11 email. “Title to the real estate is in the nonprofit corporation known as the Zadoc Long Free Library and will need to be transferred to the town.”

But Catevenis put the brakes on this move, after she and the rest of the board examined the original trust document and received an email from the former librarian, who had obtained nonprofit status for the library. According to the library’s website, it was a gift to the residents of Buckfield by Secretary of the Navy John Davis Long and erected in 1901 as a memorial to his parents Zadoc Long and Julia Temple Davis.

“(In 2009,) there was a significant amount of research done to discover whether or not the town owned that property,” Catevenis said, referring to the email from the former librarian. “If we’ve known since 2009 (that the town didn’t own it), I am looking at it, as we’ve made additions to that building, we’ve made repairs to that building. … I am curious, as a taxpayer, how that happened.”

“I can’t answer that, Martha,” Dunn replied. “I was not at the helm at the time.”

Selectman Scott Violette referenced library Board of Trustee meeting minutes from 2009 and the original trust document.

“Nowhere in here did it say it could be given to the town or the town could take over,” he said. “From what I can see, (John D. Long) made it very clear he gave it to the trustees.”

Selectman Cheryl Coffman asked if there was a way to get a clearer copy of the trust deed.

“I think there’s some vital stuff in here and it’s hard to read,” she said. “That might answer some of our questions, but there’s words I can’t make out.”

Catevenis made a motion to table making a decision until some of their questions could be answered. They included figuring out what the trustees’ funds and debts are, a current list of assets for the library and the trust and the monetary totals of the trusts, including those of Long and Priscilla Thurlow, who left the library money after her death.

Selectmen want to know whether the trustees can continue to operate as they have been, if the town can operate a department out of the library and on what date the town started giving money to the library.

Webber also advised Dunn to place two articles on the town meeting warrant, which asks voters to approve the town takeover of the library and authorize the town to carry out the functions of the library. These have also been put on hold until the next meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, at the Municipal Building, 34 Turner St.

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