PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - Phillipsburg will keep its library and the town will pay back a debt of $375,000 to the Warren County Freeholders in six payment installments over six years.
The outstanding debt was left over from an agreement that dissolved in 2016 between the town and the Warren County library system.
To pay the debt, town council had initially considered an ordinance that would have allowed voters to decide to close the library, an option that drew public criticism.
After working with the Freeholders, the council and mayor said they have found a better option.
"Every member of council is a staunch supporter of the library and when we realize there were options and Freeholder [James] Kern had given us this payment plan which has minimal impact on our constituents, we decided that was the right way to go," said council member Robert Fulper.
Mayor Todd Tersigni said now it's up to town government and the library's board to work out a budget.
"A compromise with the library board can make it so we can keep the library, a vital asset to the town of Phillipsburg for our residents now and in the future," Tersigni said.
"We can't take credit for organizing any of the support, it was a just a groundswell of this grassroots support," said Phillipsburg Library director Deb Messling.
Messling said she credits town government's change of heart to the outpouring of community support.
"We weren't surprised the community came out in force against it. We know these people, they're our friends and our neighbors."
In a statement to 69 News, the Warren County Freeholders wrote, “We thank the entire Phillipsburg Town Council for their continued efforts on the outstanding debt with respect to the library federation agreement. This proposed payment schedule will be spaced out over 6 years to spread the financial impact and will also avoid Phillipsburg returning assets or books which would be devastating to the users of the library. The County has always understood this is difficult situation for Phillipsburg but instead of ignoring the facts and contractual obligations, this administration and council stepped up.“