The North Bend Eagle


 

Council debates community room

by Nathan Arneal
Published 5/23/12

North Bend’s new library is up and open, but the details on how the building will be used are still being ironed out.

The question addressed at the May 15 City Council meeting was how to handle the multi-purpose community room, which is intended to host meetings and has its own outside access.

One option is to charge $50 for each use of the room. Several members of the Library Foundation, the group in charge of fund raising and building the new library, attended to voice their opposition to that plan.

Library Board treasurer Betty Marxen spoke first to seek confirmation that the council planned to offer use of the community room free of charge to non-profit groups.

Mayor Jeff Kluthe agreed with the idea during library hours, but he said after-hours use would require further discussion.

Jana Post, president of the Library Foundation, said she surveyed five libraries built in the past decade in David City, Alliance, Randolph, Atkinson and Battle Creek and none of them charge for non-profit use of library meeting space during or after library hours, though some ask for free-will donations.

Library Foundation treasurer Deanna Wolf said there is a need for meeting space in North Bend and that asking for donations in return for use might be the way to go.

“It builds upon itself,” Wolf said. “Those organizations meeting there see the library, they see the quality of construction and the needs and they will donate. They might make a cash donation, or they might donate some time or other needed projects.

“Charging to use the library has not been done and it’s not in our tradition in North Bend.”

Councilman Tim Blackmon complimented the Foundation on the work it has done and the beautiful building they have built, but he said the city’s main concern is that it is able to afford to keep the new library open.

Councilman Kevin Ferguson echoed those thoughts.

“You (Foundation members) have a lot of great points,” he said, “but right now we’re already seeing almost double in librarian hours and the cleaning is almost double. I would hope that would level off, but I don’t know if it will or not.”

Kluthe said something had to be done to make sure the city did not lose to much money operating the library.

“It gets back to drawing a line of where do you say yes and where do you say no,” the mayor said. “It has to be somewhere. It may be after hours, if it’s profit or non-profit, we’re booking at $50.”

Post didn’t think that idea was feasible for most community groups.

“The Optimists are looking for a home,” Post said. “If you charge them $50 a night - they meet twice a month - that’s $1,200 a year. They are here to provide community activities for our youth. That’s way more than they could ever afford.”

Tom Wolf said it was acceptable if the library took some operating losses.

“All cities have a responsibility to their community,” he said. “If it costs the city to provide important services, then so be it. I think the Foundation has gone to great lengths (to keep city’s expenses down). This is a wonderful asset. If the city has to pay a little extra, so be it.”

Councilman Ferguson said there is a limit to how much the city can lose.

“We can only spend so much,” he said. “We’re limited by what we can levy (in taxes). We’re already to the max (levy). There are streets in town I’d like to fix, and we don’t have the money to do that. There’s a lot we’d like to do. Where is this money going to come from if we’re already maxed out on our levy?”

Anther point of discussion was wether the community room would be scheduled through the librarians at the library or through city hall.

Kluthe said his preference was to see the scheduling done through city hall so the city knows what it going on. Library Board member Bernard Larson added that the librarians were adamant that they did not what to handle the responsibility of scheduling the community room.

“They don’t feel it’s their place to sign up people, collect the money and watch over people in there,” Larson said.

Post gave several reasons why scheduling should be done at the library. She said the librarians they know the schedule the best and can explain the features and answer questions about the facility, and the library’s hours are more accommodating than city hall’s.

At times, the tension was noticeable between the Library Foundation members seated in the front row and the Library Board members seated in the third row. The Library Board is appointed by the city and makes is in charge of the library’s operations. One exchange involved yelling between the two groups.

Kluthe said the Library Foundation need to respect the chain of command, and that future concerns should be presented to the Library Board, who then can then present them to the city council.

Deanna Wolf said a better Library Board will make operating the library easier for the city.

“With all due respect, I think you need a strong Library Board,” Wolf told the council. “I don’t think you have a strong Library Board right now. The library board (members) are also members of the Foundation, and the hours they’ve given to this project are very small compared to the total hours taken for the project.”

No decisions regarding the community room were made at the meeting. Wolf suggested that the Library Foundation draft a policy for the community room and present it to the council for its consideration. Kluthe said that would be fine and would give the council a starting point.

In other council business:

• A library lease was presented to the council, where the North Bend Library Foundation would rent the new library building from the city for $1 a year. The motion was tabled because the council had just received copies of the lease earlier that day.
• Approved a liquor license for RJ’s Sports Bar and Grill in downtown North Bend.

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