No library merger for now

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By Janet Robb

Board doesn't want self-storage units as neighbors

TELL CITY - Perry County's two libraries won't be merging, at least not anytime soon, Tell City-Perry County Public Library Director Larry Oathout said Wednesday.

At the board of directors' February meeting, Oathout told members he and Cannelton Public Library Director Sally Walker had discussed the possibility of merging and what that would mean to both districts. While the idea of uniting administration of the county's libraries is not new, the issue could be forced because of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform.

Known as the Kernan-Shepard Report, it presented ideas for streamlining local government, including merging school and library districts.

Oathout told members in February money from the Indiana State Library could help with a merger. The board took no action then, opting to wait until after Cannelton's Feb. 28 meeting to see if they wanted to merge.

Cannelton Library Board Secretary Peggy Newton was scheduled attend Wednesday's meeting but due to illness, couldn't. However, she told him Cannelton's library board discussed a possible merger at its recent meeting.

"While they're more than willing to discuss the possibility in a more formal manner if the situation changes ... the members of their board feel that it's in their best interest to remain a separate library district," Oathout said.

Walker said her board members discussed the merger and had questions and concerns but wouldn't offer specifics. Calls to members of Cannelton's board were not returned as of press time.

Pros and cons raised by Tell City's board included more activities in Cannelton, the bookmobile adding a stop at Cannelton schools, staff additions and changes and the cost of upgrading materials and technology.

Board member Colleen Smith asked if there were any steps to take now that they've decided not to merge. Unless Gov. Mitch Daniels "forces his hand" and makes districts merge, there's nothing more to do at this point, Oathout answered.

Storage Units Opposed

Board member David Carney raised concern about a Ferdinand company's plans for land along Tell Street, just east of the library. "I don't know if this should concern us but we should talk about it," he said.

The News reported Feb. 21 that Progressive Investment Co. has entered into a purchase agreement for land east of the library and the company told the Tell City Plan Commission the land could be developed for business or medical offices or self-storage units.

After talking to one of the members of the commission, Carney said they value how neighbors feel and "if it's something we don't feel comfortable about, then they would like to know about it." Oathout added that the plan commission didn't seem comfortable with the idea of storage buildings but offices were OK.

Other board members also shared concerns on a storage facility being built close to the library. "My experience with storage buildings in the past were that there was rotting food from where they cleaned cars and that draws rats," Smith said, adding she's also seen broken glass and trash left.

"I wouldn't be happy to see storage," Carroll Goffinet said. "It doesn't have to be residential, it could be office but I don't see a storage building being very desirable."

"If someone like our group would raise concerns, then maybe they'd be hesitant to pass it," Carney said. Oathout said he'd compose a letter with the board's concerns and send it to the commission. "We took great pains to make this a nice library and something like this would detract from it," Smith said. "This is everyone's money."

In other business, Oathout said the biggest change from the legislative session is now the library has to submit their budget to the Perry County Council for review. "They will not have budgetary control," the director said. "They review it and can suggest things but they won't have the ability to change it."

The board also established a Rainy Day Fund with more than $5,000 of excess county option income tax money the library will receive. Oathout told members the money must go into a Rainy Day Fund by state mandate.

Internet usage is up at the library and is now being monitored by a Google program. Between Jan. 13 and Feb. 13, the library's Web site, www.tcpclibrary.org, was visited 7,432 times. Obituaries are the most visited with 664, followed by the events calendar at 128.

Also new to the Web site is a Tumble-Books service for adults. The site already hosts Tumble-Books for children, who can read and listen to books online and play games and puzzles. The new service is an online audio library, which holds a collection of streaming audio books. Oathout said patrons can listen to books and bookmark them to listen to later. The selections includes fiction, nonfiction, children and teen books.

The library is looking to add a third TumbleBooks geared toward teenagers.