County council hears about potential library merger

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State-promised $16,000 may be in doubt (A correction appears in seventh paragraph.)

By KEVIN KOELLING, Managing Editor

TELL CITY – As he has done before his own board of directors (reported March 2) and the Cannelton School Board (this edition), Larry Oathout described progress by people examining a merger of local libraries to the county council Thursday.

The director for the Tell City-Perry County Public Library had appeared before the council in the fall, he reminded its members, but last year’s election brought a change in its leadership.

“We were approached by the Cannelton Library Board, and their main reason for approaching us was they felt that financially, they may not be able to carry on much longer as a separate unit,” he told the council.

State law requires libraries considering a merger to enter an agreement, with each selecting three board members to form a merger committee.

Oathout described at a Cannelton School Board meeting the tax aspects of a merger, described in another story in this edition.

He told the council the merger committee must complete their work within a year. “If we don’t make it by Nov. 3, it goes away,” he said.

He also explained a survey is available at the libraries and online at www.tcpclibrary.org to give people an opportunity to express their opinions on a merger. (Editor's note: Oathout also said "We're going to get it in the paper," which we reported in our print edition. He was referring to an announcement in a letter to the editor, which did appear.)

Also online is a list of advantages both libraries would enjoy through a merger. Among them, users of the Cannelton Library would find more and a better variety of materials; they’d have access to bookmobile stops in the community, including at schools; hours may increase and workers could get help in meeting newly adopted state library standards.

Listed as advantages for the Tell City-Perry County Public Library are the consolidation of county library services under one banner; county residents could use the facility most convenient to their homes and Tell City-Perry County taxpayers should see their taxes stay the same, or even decrease slightly. A separate “growth quotient” could bump the tax rate to an estimated 11.4 cents per $100 of assessed value from its current 11.31 cents. The merger itself would increase the tax base, and therefore drop the rate slightly except for Cannelton residents, who now pay 8.1 cents.

A handout being given out at the Cannelton Library lists more advantages, including increased service hours and reading and craft programs, bookmobile visits and better computer support and services, including an online card catalog.

The Cannelton Library is in a city-owned building, Oathout noted, and a lease agreement would have what would be the Perry County Library District “operate in that building … for 10 years, and the city of Cannelton would actually continue to pay the utility and maintenance costs while the library (staff) would take care of the contents inside.”

He added that he hopes the library district would eventually take on some of the costs the city leaders agreed to bear.

No public hearing is required, Oathout said, but the committee plans to offer one in each city a month before a meeting of each library board. Some technology upgrades would be necessary in the Cannelton Library, but a commitment by the state library to provide $16,000 for that purpose may not be fulfilled, Oathout told the council.
“I’m not sure we’re going to get that now; that was based on some money that they had coming in, and they sort of got dropped a little bit,” he said.

Present in the audience at the council meeting, Cannelton Mayor Smokey Graves said he and his administration support a merger. He said the tax increase will be minimal compared to a $45 fee Cannelton residents would have to pay to use the Tell City facility if Cannelton’s library closes without a merger.

Among assurances worked out by committee members are one that the Cannelton Public Library sign “will be retained outside that building forever and a day as long as those doors are open,” Graves said. “I want to make very clear that that will be the Cannelton branch of the Perry County Library District.”