Calloway County Public Library Board Rescinds Decision To Move Forward With Expansion
The Calloway County Public Library Board’s three recently appointed board members voted Wednesday to rescind the decision to move forward with the proposed $6.4 million library expansion project.
The move is the latest in the library’s long battle to renovate and expand. The tension in the room was thick as the three new board members discussed the proposal and need for digital services, issues that the audience advocated for more than two hours.
The meeting started with public comment from community member Jennifer Morrison who expressed concern over how new board members Joseph Walker, Winfield Rose and Mark Kennedy were appointed.
Their appointments came after three board members resigned in April, following the board’s decision to move forward with the $6.4 million expansion project that was first proposed in 2016. The board didn’t have enough members to legally meet after the resignations, requiring Judge Executive Larry Elkins to make appointments.
Kentucky Department of Library Archives Commissioner Terry Manuel said he had asked Elkins to come up with viable candidates. Manuel said Elkins presented him at least two names for each position and said the individuals selected met their criteria. Those names were then sent back for approval from the fiscal court.
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.
During the approval of the April board meeting minutes, Kennedy made a motion to hold all proceedings from that meeting in order to give the new board members time to look over the proposed expansion. The motion was met by a ‘boo’ from the crowd.
"If you second that motion, you’re getting rid of accepting the March financials, you’re getting rid of the director's report, you’re getting rid of the changes we made to the employee handbook...anything we discussed in that meeting, you want to hold?" Board President Audrey Neal asked.
Kennedy’s motion failed due to the all-encompassing nature of its language but was later brought up in a different manner by Rose, who asked if the board could simply rescind the decision to move forward with the expansion. He said he wasn’t familiar enough with the controversial issue to move forward with the plan.
"It bothers me terribly that three existing members of the board at that time resigned precipitously from this board," Rose said. "I don’t know how important that is--it might not be important at all--but I am just not comfortable with moving forward with an estimated $6.4 million dollar project without opportunity to study the matter further."
Neal asked for an amendment to the motion so it could be addressed in January next year, saying that the process keeps getting pushed back.
"I understand where you are coming from in terms of wanting to have the information and know where we are and what’s been done and what’s been proposed," Neal said. "But I also know that there have been multiple personal and political agendas as part of this whole process trying to derail it over, and over, and over again."
The board agreed to the January hearing. A motion was also made, at Kennedy’s request, for the creation of an advisory board comprised of community members.
Passing The Budget For The Upcoming Fiscal Year
During the discussion of the library’s 2018-2019 fiscal budget, Kennedy made the motion for Director Mignon Reed to cut 3% of all non-personnel related line items to make up for revenue lost from giving all employees a 1% raise. Neal and Reed said the proposed 1%, 2%, or 3% raise for employees was already worked into the budget.
But Kennedy said after the adoption of the raise the cost-revenue ratio would be too low. He said it should ultimately be up to Reed to decide which line items be cut, but questioned the cost of a few services, including the library’s website.
"The CCPL website, we’re paying $4,980 a year," Kennedy said. "I think ‘Go Daddy’ can give it to us a lot cheaper than that."
Collection Development Manager Sandy Linn said the cost of the website is justified by the quality. She said the library previously used a WordPress website, but opted for their current option to be able to include a ‘search bar’ and IT support. Linn said she believes it’s important for the library to have a quality website because it acts as an additional branch of their services.
Kennedy also questioned the cost of the digital content provider Hoopla and asked the audience if anyone used it; several audience members raised their hands and defended the service.
Director Reed agreed to cut the 3% from non-personnel items in the budget but ultimately disagreed with Kennedy that the library would be in bad financial standing if they passed the budget as it currently stands.
Rose disagreed to have Reed cut 3% from non-personnel related line items without a report of the cuts to the board. Thus, Kennedy’s motion failed.
Rose made a motion to pass the 2018-2019 budget and give all library employees a 2% raise so the budget could be submitted before the June 30 deadline. The board accepted the motion and added that Director Reed present the proposed 3% cuts to the board at the regularly scheduled July meeting, where the budget would then be amended to include them.