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Library defends value of branches suggested to be surplus

PEC Library CEO Barbara Sweet with board vice-chairman Phil Ainsworth and chairman Judy Blemkie.

The Prince Edward County Library board is well prepared to inform council about pitfalls and problems with declaring three library buildings surplus.
“We’ve done our homework,” library board chair Judy Blemkie told the media Monday. “We have gathered a lot of data they should tap before a decision is made.”

Blemkie notes only a library board can close a library, but the County owns the buildings at Ameliasburgh and Bloomfield and can declare them surplus.  The Consecon branch building would revert back to the diocese of the church. It is suggested the Ameliasburgh and Bloomfield libraries be re-located to alternate County-owned properties.

In its bid to achieve financial sustainability, council on Wednesday, March 14 will review 19 motions suggested by the County’s CAO and commissioners. Among them, are suggestions affecting three of the County’s six libraries:

15. THAT the Bloomfield library building be declared surplus to the needs of the municipality and staff be directed to either relocate the Bloomfield library into the lower level of the community centre/hall or close it altogether and divest the library building for use as an economic driver.

16. THAT the Ameliasburgh library building be declared surplus to the needs of the municipality and staff be directed to relocate the Ameliasburgh library into the community centre or the museum church and divest the library building to generate revenue to either pay down debt or replenish reserves.

17. THAT the Consecon library building be declared surplus to the needs of the municipality, the library branch closed and staff be directed to divest of the building to generate revenue to either pay down debt or replenish reserves or return it to the parishioners as may be required.

“At no time was the library board of trustees consulted, asked for input or given the courtesy of communication that these recommendations were being made to the County Council,” said Blemkie. “The library board’s legal responsibilities for the operation of the branches was not even acknowledged. Members of the community discovered the recommendations on the County’s website and made the library CEO and board aware of them.”

Blemkie notes the library board inspected the properties proposed and found them unacceptable as locations (example: too small, poor layout) and expensive to upgrade and repair (no air conditioning, insulation, windows etc., in need of repair).

The board, on Feb. 24, delivered a motion to Shire Hall requesting the withdrawal of recommendations 15, 16, and 17 until a joint committee of the library board and council review and determine the efficiency and feasibility of each recommendation.

“To date the library board has not received any response to our motion,” said Blemkie.

The board will be presenting a delegation at the council meeting March 14.

“The public is willing to pay to keep their libraries,” said Blemkie. “We’ve had the phone calls and emails. Councillors have too.”

The three councillors on the library board are Alec Lunn, Dianne O’Brien and Jim Dunlop.

Library CEO Barbara Sweet shared a handout picked up at a recent Ameliasburgh Town Hall meeting where councillors demonstrated how $100 of municipal property taxes are spent. In it, libraries account for $3.62 cents. The leader is transportation services at $34.75, followed by policing at $13.39 and fire protection at $9.09. Social and family services ($8.57), parks and recreation/arenas ($8.30) and land ambulance services ($4.53) follow. Remaining uses of funds: land use planning and building standards ($2.63); waste collection and recycling ($2.37); health unit ($1.84); council ($1.74); economic development ($1.62); general government ($1.49); museums ($1.30); capital expenditures ($1.25); conservation authority ($.99); Home for the Aged ($.92); Hospital, Tourism and Community Grants ($.77); bylaw enforcement and control ($.60); specialized transit ($.13) and cemeteries ($.09).

“The public values its libraries and depends on them for local free services,” said Sweet, listing high-speed Internet, tutoring and literacy programs, clubs, classes and computer training among the services as popular as borrowing reading materials. The library branches also deliver about $22,000 to the County at no extra charge, by selling the municipality’s permits and dog tags.

The library has created a petition that needs to be signed in advance of the March 14 meeting. It can be signed at any branch and is also available online: http://www.peclibrarynews.org/?p=442

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