Columbia County's Westside Library
DuPree Asks: Keep it open or shut it down?
Columbia County, FL (Posted August 12, 2011 09:15 am)
Yesterday's budget work shop was like most other recent Columbia County meetings, only worse, as only one member of the public attended. Yesterday's hot budget topic was the West Side Library – Keep it open or shut it down? The Westside branch is approximately 5 miles down US 90 from the main library, which serves as library headquarters and is located in the heart of downtown Lake City.
Board Chair, Jody DuPree asks about the Library fund.
As the meeting was drawing down, Chairman DuPree brought up the Westside Library, which was built in 2004 to accommodate the building boom on the west side of Lake City. With the boom gone bust, folks have been questioning the value of the Westside branch and if those funds could be used to enhance the main library and its services, while lowering the cost to run the libraries.
After the May 26th Department Director Budget Workshop, the Observer mentioned to Commissioner DuPree that he thought it was time to shut the West Branch down.
At that time, Commissioner DuPree responded, "You got that right."
Yesterday, Commissioner DuPree began the Westside Library branch conversation by questioning the funding.
How much does it cost?
Commissioner DuPree, referring to the library fund, told County Manager Dale Williams, "[You're] probably gonna need to do an assessment, some kind a way, to see how much we could anticipate we're gonna need to supplant into that fund for the future."
County Manager Williams explains the numbers.
County Manager Williams was ready with the numbers. He told the Board that keeping the Westside Library open and everything else remaining the same would require a subsidy of up to $750,000.
If the West Branch was closed the County claims the savings would be $160,000.
Columbia County receives hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in library state aid. The financial crisis in the state is causing reductions in state aid, which in Columbia County is directly impacting the library system funding.
For years, the County had not been spending the state aid and instead, deposited it in the bank. Recently, the library reserve fund was over $2,000,000 and the County was beginning to become concerned that the state was going to question why the County needed the aid if they were not spending it.
"What's y'all feelins about it?"
Commissioner DuPree asked the Board, "What's y'all feelins about it?"
Commissioner Ronald Williams said he was against closing the Westside Library.
He said, "I really don't wanna see the West Side Library closed simply because if you look at the usage of the Westside Library you're gonna have to put more staff somewhere else to take overflow."
None of the other commissioners commented.
Commissioner DuPree then said, "So if I understand, the consensus of the Board would be not to close the Westside Library."
Commissioner Williams replied, "Well that's mine. I don't know about the other Board members."
Commissioner DuPree: Well, I didn't hear nobody say nothin, so I'm assumin (unintelligible)... Where we need to approach this from is not closin it...
County Manager Williams strains to hear the commissioners.
Throughout the meeting, most of the commissioners lounged back in their chairs and refused to use the microphones, even when asked. Many times it was almost impossible to hear and understand what they were saying. When your reporter asked Commissioner Bailey to please use the microphone, the request fell on deaf ears.
Commissioner DuPree then mentioned something about the City having to pay to use the library.
Commissioner Bailey then mentioned that based on what he recalled past usage of the West branch to be, he could not see keeping it open.
Commissioner DuPree added, "The TDC meets there. There are a lot of people in that library whenever I'm actually in the building."
After the last meeting of the TDC your reporter counted the number of people using the library. There were four patrons -- three when the meeting began.
Commissioner Bailey said, "They're only open like what - three days a week? Is that right?"
County Manager Williams, "Their hours are limited. That's true."
The West Branch is open five days a week and is open all day Saturday, while the Main Branch is only open from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday.
Commissioner DuPree told the County Manager, "So you're gonna to figure out how to get some adjustment -- somebody gonna get stoned in the deal but, you're gonna figure it out -- right?"
There was a brief conversation regarding the County's reduced ad valorem taxes.
County Manager Williams said, "Ad valorem's tracking down (fn) -- then all of a sudden you're gonna take 160,000 [dollars] of whatever because you want the City to participate in the cost of operations [of the library]."
Commissioner DuPree: "Exactly."
A little while after the workshop, your reporter was in City Hall and bumped into the number two man in Lake City, Grayson Cason, and mentioned that the County wants to charge Lake City residents to use the County library.
Mr. Cason's expression went blank, as if seeing an elephant with the word "horse" written on its side. He thought for a moment and said, "I will tell you this, the people in Lake City live in Columbia County. We all live in Columbia County. We all pay taxes in Columbia County."
fn: This means there is less revenue coming into the county coffers.