By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
The number 13
is thought lucky in some countries and stay-in-bed sinister in others. In Dade
County, supporters of the local public library are expecting year 2013 to loom
large in the institution’s beleaguered history. As it stands, the library is
funded only through June of the year.
“I have a
feeling this is going to be an important year for wheeling and dealing,” said
Friends of the Library member Patsy Cannon as she nominated Donna Street for
the group’s presidency at a meeting on Jan. 24 dedicated to discussing
strategies for the library’s continued existence.
“It is going to
be a very important, critical year,” said Ms. Street, as she later accepted the
position. She replaces Linda Wilson, who will remain one of the group’s
Both Ms. Wilson
and Ms. Street are retired Dade County school teachers. Ms. Street has also
chaired the county Democratic Party, run for elected office herself and been
active in numerous political campaigns and community projects.
duly elected, the Friends next decided to amp up their meetings schedule for
2013, separating regular quarterly meetings from the monthly book club
discussion groups, and announcing special called sessions as needed.
Moving on to
matters fiscal, Ms. Wilson reported that the Trenton City Commission had not,
as the Friends group hoped, voted at its January meeting on its library funding
for this fiscal year.
She said that
the temporary workers who since the tornados of 2011 have been provided to the
library, as well as to other county offices, by the Georgia Department of Labor
through a federal grant will be gone in April and that the library must hire
part-time help in order to stay open even for the reduced 30-hour week it
adopted in July. “We can’t do it without money from the city,” she said.
Anthony Emanuel had at the city commission’s January meeting asked the library
to provide figures for funding from the county and the board of education, the
library’s other two funding sources, preparatory to the city’s voting on its
own contribution at its February meeting scheduled for this Monday.
the county, city and board of education have shared responsibility for the
library’s funding, in recent years kicking in annual amounts around $68,000 for
the county, $30,000 for the city and $38,000 for the B of E. The state supplies
additional funding based on local government support levels through an
arrangement called “maintenance of effort.”
In its budget
for 2011, though, Trenton proposed dumping all funding for the library. It
relented in the face of public outcry, but reinstated the library only
conditionally, and incidentally set the stage for a similar move last summer by
the Board of Education.
board in July abruptly slashed the library from its own budget 100 percent, and
even in the face of standing-room-only houses at three public hearings remained
obdurate to popular protest to the withdrawal.
Amid all this,
a nonbinding straw poll ballot question in the July primary election proposing
that some portion of the county real estate tax be devoted to the library’s
upkeep gained overwhelming support, with 71 percent voting in favor.
But it was too
late to get the measure on the November general election ballot as a binding
referendum question, and as for the Dade County Commission taking action on it
independently, County Executive Ted Rumley has repeated in numerous statements
his belief that the measure would amount to a tax increase and that voters
didn’t realize that when they voted yes.
Rumley has also
reiterated that the county is contributing all it feasibly can to the library
as it stands. But he has vowed not to let the library close altogether,
suggesting that Dade run it independently of the state system of which it is a
At the FOL
meeting, the Friends dismissed this notion as an impossibility. “I don’t think
he realizes how little would be left,” said one member.
Not just the
informational, cataloguing and bookkeeping systems provided by the state and
regional system would be lost, said Friends, but the book collection.
The city of
Chickamauga had played some years ago with the notion of going it alone,
pointed out Ms. Street, but in the end found it impractical.
discussed various ideas for events to benefit the library, and some adopted for
further discussion. But Ms. Wilson said, “We can’t keep the library open on
She said the
library would again approach the Dade Board of Education, asking for a slot on
the board’s February or March agenda. But she added that Shawn Tobin, Dade’s
current school superintendent, seemed unlikely to change his mind: It was at
Tobin’s recommendation, and with the blessing of an out-of-town consultant he
hired, that the school board last summer zeroed out library funding.
regional headlines this weekend for spending $400,000 in Dade sales tax money
to beef up security at Dade’s one high school. Surveillance cameras accurate
enough to “make out the letters on a license plate in the parking lot,”
according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, will shortly arrive in rural
military, you know you’re always a target,” Tobin, an ex-Army man, explained
his purchases to the Chattanooga paper.
Ms. Wilson and
the Friends group, meanwhile, expressed little hope of convincing the
superintendent to reinstate the library at the board’s former $38,000 per annum
level. In default of that, she said, they will ask for the half share of
$19,000 needed to keep the library open at the current 30-hour-a-week schedule.
Marshana Sharp addressed the Friends group briefly. She announced plans for
adult computer classes she hopes to hold at the library once a month, and said
she is soliciting volunteers to teach sessions.
activities discussed for the library included a historical research class and a
monthly adult games night, perhaps with bridge, Trivial Pursuit and other board
announced free tax help would again be available at the library on Thursdays
this month courtesy of AARP volunteers. The volunteers prefer to work by
appointment, and readers may call the library at (706) 657-7857 to book their
schedule was slashed last summer, the library is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and
Fridays, with half-days on Saturday.