“Just meeting two or three times a year to try to find an extra $40,000 to $50,000 doesn’t work,” Garner told the 6 p.m. meeting of the Carrollton mayor and council. “We need to look at this in depth. This issue is bigger than one meeting or 20 minutes.”
Garner suggested getting help from the Richards School of Business at the University of West Georgia and state library officials to examine the budget and look for new funding sources.
“Let’s look at that building,” he said, speaking about the current library building on Rome Street. “Does it make sense to keep pouring money into that building or to start looking for a new place?”
The library came back to the city council seven months ago to ask for an additional $35,000 to help repair a leaking roof.
Garner said Monday night was the first time in eight years he’d seen a presentation about the library that had numbers with it, showing what the library has and where it wants to go.
“If you’re ready to get to work, we’re ready,” he said.
More than 100 library supporters jammed the council meeting hall to show their backing. They applauded Garner when he pledged city efforts to help the library find a way to meet its expenses and look for a long-term solution.
“The library helps our community in so many ways,” said Mary Jane Davis, president of Friends of Neva Lomason Library. “We need to help them return to normal hours and personnel.”
Roni Tewksbury, director of the West Georgia Regional Library System, came to the meeting to do a PowerPoint presentation on the library's needs, at the request of Councilman Gerald Byrd.
Tewksbury noted that the library last September had to eliminate Friday openings and cut back on expenses in order to meet its budget. She said the library is now operating 47 hours per week, compared to 64 hours two years ago. It had previously cut its operating hours in September of 2011.
“We don’t always have the workforce to get done what needs to be done,” she said. “That’s why we had to start closing on Friday.”
She said the library faces a 2013 budget of $359,422, but has funds for only $314,384. That includes $230,904 from the city of Carrollton; $71,989 from the Carroll County Board of Commissioners; and $11,491 in state materials grants.
She noted that much of the extra cost is due to employee health insurance premiums nearly tripling in price.
Tewksbury said people are still using the library in record numbers, and there’s no sign that they will slow down.
“We help people with computers all the time, help them get books from other places, and refer them to people who can help if we can’t,” she said. “We help job applicants file applications and help students from pre-K through college and beyond. We have master’s degree candidates who are doing online courses, and we proctor their exams.”
Tewksbury said she wants to do three things to help the library and the city.
One is to clear up what she called “the identification crisis” at the Rome Street library building. She said many people don’t understand that the building is the headquarters for the regional system, but it’s also the Carrollton Public Library. The sign on the building identifies it as the “Neva Lomason Memorial Library.” Tewksbury wants to add a sign that will also show it’s the Carrollton Public Library.
“I’d also like to begin steps to make the library a city department,” she said.
Finally, she said she’d like to “get a feeling” for future funding and to find a way to increase the library operating hours again.
Byrd said he’d asked the library to do a presentation so the council could get an idea on how much money it needs. He said after the presentation, he was “still up in the air” on the total figures.
“I’d like to see the library become a showplace like the amphitheater,” he said. “If the library becomes a city department, what does that entail?”
City Manager Casey Coleman said he couldn’t answer the question because he’d not had time to look into what was involved since the item had been added late to the council agenda.
Councilman Mike Patterson said he’d also like to see the library get back to its original operating hours.
“I’d like to see more details,” Patterson said. “I’d like to see details about state grants, the employee insurance and benefits package. “
He said he would encourage the library to use more volunteer help, similar to how a hospital has auxiliary volunteers.
In other council business, the group unanimously approved:
• a resolution amending the city’s unified development ordinance so that applications for rezoning would require only one hearing before the planning and zoning commission, instead of the two currently required;
• a resolution imposing a municipal excise tax on energy, as provided for in House Bill 386 passed last year to remove the state tax, but allow municipalities to levy their own instead;
• setting of this year’s council seat candidate qualifying fee at $108, based on 3 percent of the total gross salary paid to each council member;
• reappointment of Cristi Hanson Phommasith, Jacqueline Dost and Chad Houck, whose terms expired Dec. 31, to new three-year terms on the Carrollton Main Street board, and reappointment of Carla Maner, who was appointed last May to fill a partial term;
• and reappointment of Jason Smith and Sandra Penny Houston, whose terms ended Dec. 31, to new three-year terms on the planning commission; and delayed, until the next council meeting, filling the vacancy created when Mary Covington resigned.