Library board chair concerned over Windsor councillor's comments
Comments made during a recent Annapolis Valley Regional Library Board meeting has West Hants council concerned for the future of the local library.
Coun. Shirley Pineo, who serves as the chairperson of the AVRLB, sounded the alarm during West Hants' March 11 council meeting.
“On March 6, 2014, at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library Board meeting, the representative from the Town of Windsor, Scott Geddes, stated that Windsor is in a difficult financial situation and they are looking at cuts to their budget,” said Pineo at the council meeting.
“He stated that the Town of Windsor may close the Windsor library. This announcement shocked the board and we hope the people of the area let the town know about the importance of libraries and how critical this service is to its users.”
In February, Geddes brought up the funding arrangement for the Windsor Regional Library at a Town of Windsor committee of the whole meeting. He was concerned that the municipality wasn't paying its fair share and a motion was made to send a letter to West Hants council asking them to assist with the ongoing costs of housing the library.
At that meeting, Geddes asked Windsor CAO Louis Coutinho to provide council with a breakdown of the number of library users from each municipality, as well as provide cost estimates. The Hants Journal reported that 35 per cent of library users are from Windsor, while 58 per cent reside in West Hants. Furthermore, the CAO said the town pays about $51,600 annually for the library.
Figures called into question
At West Hants' council meeting, Pineo wanted to set the record straight about the library funding and began by providing council with a brief history.
Pineo said when planning for the current library was underway, much discussion was held on where the library should be located. One suggestion was within the new high school that was being constructed. Other options included building in one of West Hants' growth centres.
“The town indicated, at that time, that there was no available land for it so West Hants offered to build one in the county, either in Falmouth or Three Mile Plains areas,” said Pineo. “If this had occurred, then West Hants would have been responsible for the cost of the maintenance of the library. However, the Town of Windsor wanted to keep the library within the boundaries of the town and the present location was offered. Therefore, it became the responsibility of the town to assume the costs of maintenance.”
At the time, West Hants residents Hugh and Mary Roddis offered to donate $300,000 toward the construction of the new library if the money could be matched. The Friends of the Windsor Regional Library began fundraising and through the help of the community, businesses, and government, the project was a success.
“Once construction was completed, the friends group turned the library over to the town and it became a wonderful asset for the town,” explained Pineo.
The councillor said she was surprised when she read the article in the Hants Journal that stated the annual cost of building maintenance was around $50,000. After some investigating, she determined the number provided at Windsor's town council meeting wasn't quite accurate.
“Morally, I don't see how a town could possibly do that after citizens have put that much money into it.” Coun. Shirley Pineo
“I would like to clarify that from information I received from the director of finance for the Town of Windsor, that the cost of maintenance for the library in 2013-14 was $26,900 and the provincial assessment sent to the Annapolis Valley Regional (Library) Board was $24,700,” she said.
“Although West Hants did not pay towards the maintenance — because it is not in our municipality — the provincial assessment for West Hants was $88,194,” she continued.
The amount that each municipality is mandated to pay to the province grants residents access to library services anywhere in Nova Scotia.
“In other words, with a free library card, you can visit and borrow from any public or university library in Nova Scotia as well as have access to e-books, audio books, books by mail, computers and internet (access) at the library, reading or educational programs at the library, free broadband wireless access plus a number other benefits for the citizens.”
West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee commended Pineo on her presentation and said he too was surprised by the article in the paper since they had not received a letter from the Town of Windsor on the subject.
“There hasn't been a letter so we had to read it in the Journal. It was discussed at their council meeting and that becomes a bit frustrating,” said Dauphinee.
The warden noted West Hants' provincial assessment is more than three times the amount of Windsor's. He then noted the economic spinoff associated with having a library.
“Our residents go to town to use the library (and) I would hope, when they're in there, they're buying a cup of coffee, or whatever, shopping in town. That's why they wanted it. It was a draw. We would've taken it in Falmouth or Three Mile Plains.”
In an interview following the meeting, Pineo said the AVRLB is concerned with what was said at their March 6 meeting.
“The (AVRLB) CEO is looking into whether a town can actually take a library building and change its use to something else,” said Pineo.
She said they are trying to determine if a town could dispose of a library, which was built by the community for the community.
That was a question Coun. Jennifer Daniels also raised during the March 11 council meeting.
“Since public funds were used to construct the library in the Town of Windsor, is there an agreement of what happens to this asset if the Town of Windsor decides not to continue to look after maintenance?” Daniels asked during the meeting.
Pineo noted that would be something the library board will be looking into.
“Morally, I don't see how a town could possibly do that after citizens have put that much money into it,” said Pineo.
To read the initial story, Windsor requests West Hants assist with library costs, written by Ashley Thompson, click here.