Numerous Calloway County Library Issues Addressed in Fiscal Court Special Session

Feb 3, 2017

Credit Rob Canning, WKMS

After a months-long feud between the Calloway County Library Board and Judge Executive Larry Elkins, the fiscal court appointed former Webster County assistant superintendent Riley Ramsey in a special session Thursday while ousting board member Ryan Alessi, who has moved out of the state.

Elkins said Alessi’s board position violated a bylaw which states “The Calloway County Library Board of Trustees will be composed of five members. Each member must reside in Calloway County.” Ramsey has a residence in Calloway County.

Alessi said he informed Elkins in July he was moving to Virginia, but would remain a property owner, before the seat expired in August. He noted the bylaws also state “A trustee shall hold office until their successor has been appointed and qualified.” He has said he’d stay on until Elkins appointed a successor, noting four candidates had been proposed, two for his seat (of which Ramsey was one) for his and another vacancy.

The board is expected to hold officer elections for specific roles, like secretary and president, as soon as Wednesday’s meeting. There is still another vacancy on the board, of which two candidates have been proposed.

New member Riley Ramsey said he has some reservations about taking the position given the emotions surrounding the library, but says he wants to be an “effective change agent.” He said he plans to listen and learn. 

“I want to do what we all learn in kindergarten, when you are about to cross a railroad, you need to stop, look and listen before you leap. So before I make any big decisions or changes or positions, I want to see how others feel. I want to see what the library needs,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said he wants the library to be more fiscally responsible. Ramsey will soon take library training through the Calloway County Public Library and the Kentucky Library and Archive Division.

Elkins and the board have been at odds over other issues, including the cost of a proposed renovation and expansion, the sale of a neighboring property and other budgeting matters.

Several of these issues were addressed during the session, including a proposed new “transparency ordinance” which would require any tax collecting agency to state on advertising material that it was paid for by taxes. The court said this will make public agencies be more transparent with taxpayers. And though it was aimed at the library, it would apply to all public agencies that collect taxes (like the fiscal court and county jail - the ordinance makes an exception for public school districts and divisions of the city governments of Murray and Hazel), which are determined as bodies deriving “25% of its funds expended by it from a local authority funds or tax receipts collected within Calloway County.” Failure to comply would be subject to fines and other penalties at the judge executive’s discretion.

The court also tabled the decision to demand that the library recover the Higgins House from Murray Main Street. The library sold the property, which is next to the library, to Murray Main Street in 2012 for $1. The court argued in the resolution that this transaction remained a void for “lack of a public purpose.”

Alessi said part of the reason the library board made the 2012 deal was the “sheer expense” of renovating the Higgins House to make it not only ‘useable’ but ‘safe to walk into,’ noting the cost of bringing it up to historic building standards.

Elkins tabled the decision until the next fiscal court meeting to give the two agencies time to “discuss their options.” He said Murray Main Street might return the property. Elkins maintains the house has a valuation of $150,000.

The court also passed a resolution backing Senate Bill 48, which seeks amendments to various laws to grant more power to a judge executive, with fiscal court approval, to appoint members of a library board when prospective appointees proposed by the board are not suitable.