A five-person Calloway County Public Library board is left with only two members after three resignations last month. The law requires at least three board members be present before action can be taken, like passing a balanced budget.
“We’re kind of stuck here for a while,”said Calloway County Public Library Board president Riley Ramsey.
Ramsey said he is concerned about passing necessary motions for the library without a full board.
“Legally we have a budget that must be adopted...and without a quorum...I can’t,” Ramsey said.
Three resignations came after the library board approved a $6.4 million renovation and expansion project. Ricky Lamkin, Larry Tucker and Jeff Gentry resigned that week.
Tucker is the only board member who cited the expansion plan as his reason for resigning. Gentry said he resigned for personal reasons. Library director Mignon Reed said Lamkin’s resignation email stated retirement after having served on the board for six years.
Ramsey said he expected Lamkin to retire, but learned of the other two resignations while reading the Murray Ledger and Times.
Ramsey said Gentry, Lamkin and Tucker could all come back and sit on the board until Judge Executive Larry Elkins appoints new members. But, he said Tucker and Lamkin have chosen not to do so. Ramsey said he has not spoken to Gentry yet about this possibility.
Ramsey reached out to the Kentucky Department For Library Archives for assistance out of fear of breaking the law.
“Y’know, asking for assistance and understanding...and maybe there’s some waivers we can temporarily get by and pay bills and things of that nature,” Ramsey said.
Kentucky Department For Library Archives Commissioner Terry Manuel said a library board would typically nominate people to fill the vacant seats, but because this board can’t meet… there’s no way they can make nominations.
“I can nominate names to the county Judge-Executive, two names for each position, and then the county Judge-Executive can choose between those names and it has to be approved by the fiscal court- but once that’s done they can go ahead and get the board re-appointed,” Manuel said.
Calloway County Judge-Executive Larry Elkins said he hopes to appoint new members as quickly as possible. But said he was “caught off guard” by the board’s decision to move forward with the expansion project.
“I actually had a commitment from some of the members that they wouldn’t vote for a plan like they approved. So, all I’d like to say is that there were people on the board who didn’t keep their word,” Elkins said “This has been a contentious issue...and I have documents to prove my statements. I wouldn’t like to comment or insult anyone individually,”
Elkins has been critical of the library and the proposed expansion since it was first mentioned by the board in fall 2016. He has accused the board of frivolous spending and denounced an expansion that would cost more than $4 million dollars.
Elkins said an expansion would mean raising taxes. He said the project represents “taxation without representation.”
“I think it’s fundamentally wrong that three people- that I would guess that most people don’t even know, and definitely didn’t vote for, and wouldn’t have the opportunity to vote against- to approve that kind of project that would cause long-term debt and will eventually cause taxes to be raised,” Elkins said.
Ramsey disagrees with Elkins. He said board members Audrey Neal, Gentry and himself voted in favor of the expansion. Tucker voted no. Lamkin was not present at the meeting.
Ramsey said moving forward with the plan doesn’t necessarily mean they are locked into paying the $6.4 million. He said the next step for the board will be taking bids from local construction companies, which he said would be cheaper compared to a company from somewhere like Louisville.
He said he expects a local bid to be less than $6.4 million, and that there’s some misunderstanding about what the board passed concerning the expansion.
“I think some people have some misunderstanding about what we’ve done,” Ramsey said. “We’ve been talking about this for the last two years and we have waited until the time is right that we have just about $3 million set aside in the general fund, and we might have to borrow anywhere from $2.5 to $3 million to finish the project. But we can do that without raising taxes.”
Chip Sutherland with Hilliard Lyons reviewed the library’s original expansion plan in 2016. He said after reviewing the financials and historical performance of the Calloway County Public Library, “we are comfortable with their ability to afford this project.”
Commissioner Terry Manuel said the KDLA plans to select two people to fill the vacancies. Those names will then go to the fiscal court for approval. He said he hopes it will be done before May 15.