TRENTON, N.J. (WTXF) - New Jersey voters gave the thumbs-up to a referendum to borrow 125 million dollars to improve and fund capital projects in libraries across the state. Trenton could use some of that.
“We could have maintained these libraries,” says Trenton South Ward Councilman George Muschal. “You’ve got to have somebody in leadership that wants to maintain the libraries.”
Muschal, no stranger to Trenton politics, also served as interim mayor after Tony Mack went to jail on a corruption conviction, but before current Mayor Eric Jackson. When Muschal left office, he says there was money to re-open Skelton Branch of the Trenton Free Library. It didn’t happen.
“That’s correct. When I left, this was ready to go. Open this library. Ready to go,” says Muschal, who can usually be found at his Wishie Washie laundromat on Lalor Street. “Now? I haven’t been in it – I have no idea.”
Trenton could’ve used some grant money back in 2010 when they closed all but one branch of the city’s library. That includes the East Trenton branch, which is in an historic house, the Cadawalader Branch on Hermitage Avenue, and the Briggs Branch, which isn’t even a library anymore, though the books are still there.
“Well, in this branch we are a community center and we still have the library books and kids can still come into the center,” says Tynnetta Howard, of Howards Healthy Choices, an organization that runs after-school activities, career instruction, and other endeavors. You can’t check out the books, but, “they can still read the books and look at the books and they can do work.” At least they’re making use of the space and resources.
One Trenton library branch remains open – the one on Academy Street. Since voters approved the bond issue, Trenton can apply for and maybe receive grant money. But that’s when it’ll get sticky, says Councilman Muschal.
“Somebody’s going to have to be a watchdog and watch the money. It’s all about honesty,” Muschal explains.
Trenton libraries were shuttered in 2010 during Mack’s administration due to budget shortfall. The books are still at Skelton. I saw them through the window. And in 2017, the city needs them more than ever, says Muschal. I agree. It’s the state capitol, for heaven’s sake. I’m Hank – and that’s my take.