County to city: Send us a letter

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The City of Chiefland wants to change the terms of its contract with Levy County for the operation of the Luther Callaway Public Library located behind City Hall, but the county is not budging. 

In its regular meeting Tuesday, Levy County Library Director Lisa Brasher asked the County Commissioners for guidance on how to handle the proposed contract changes. 

The unanimous answer: Forget it. 

Under the contract for all five public libraries the county provides the supplies such as books, computers, magazines, tapes, CDs and the staff, while the cities or private groups provide the land, building, maintenance, cleaning and utilities. In Chiefland, the land and building were donated by the Beauchamp Family for a public library. 

The current contract calls for automatic renewal on Sept. 30 of each year unless one party notifies the other of its intent to cancel at least 60 days in advance of Sept. 30, unless there is a supplemental agreement otherwise or the deal is terminated by mutual agreement. 

The city wants to change the contract to have only a 30-day cancellation notice and that termination be by the city or county with 30 days notice. The changes were proposed in an Aug. 21 letter from Chiefland City Manager Kevin Gay to County Coordinator Fred Moody, with a copy to Brasher.  Gay’s letter followed the city commission’s 4-0 approval, with one absent commissioner, of the changes in an Aug. 12 meeting. 

That letter also followed one sent by Gay on July 24 notifying Moody of the commission’s intent to change the terms of the deal. 

Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (R-District 5) said, “They haven’t sent anything to us.. 

“If they want the change, they can submit the change in sufficient legal form.”

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4), said the county wants to continue the contract as is and hinted at something deeper at issue referring to “any power struggles the City of Chiefland has on its board” is for them to work out. 

“Until you get a copy and it’s a formal, signed copy from that board I would not worry about it,” Bell said. “Everything else is scratch paper.”

Bell said the county also is not going to send anything to the city because it has not been approached by the city commissioners. “The contract is still in force.” He said any change would have to come after a majority of the current board voted on a new contract.

In other business, Brasher gave the commission a briefing on the PAL Co-Op, a separate governing body made up of representatives of three member library systems ? Putnam, Alachua and Levy ? and the financial impact it has had on the Levy County library system. 

Brasher, who is administrator of the co-op, following the three-year tenure of the Putnam libraries director, said the co-op is a recipient and distributor of state aid for libraries. As such it does not distribute the money it receives, but instead can hire staff, and buy supplies and services for the member libraries. 

The library director said Levy libraries receive $50,000 in help from the co-op last year and will receive $60,000 in the current fiscal year. The co-op also purchases and provides about $130,000 in databases ? like Learning Express, Ancestry.com, Brainfuse,  and Chilton’s repair manuals. “Somewhere in Levy County last weekend you saved somebody $1,500” in auto repair bills, Brasher said. Brainfuse, she explained, is a homework help program. 

She said the only “burden” to the county is that she submits paperwork for invoices to be paid by the County Clerk’s office and the county has included in her paycheck the money paid to her for her work with the co-op.

Moody said the arrangement is convenient because the county and the libraries are audited by the same firm every year. 

Moody said, “Like  lot of small rural counties Levy County was hurting and the director in Alachua County recommended forming this as a way to get additional funding instead of standing alone.”

Brasher noted that according to the state, Levy County is ranked the lowest in terms of financial support for its libraries. “You can see Levy circled at the bottom. That is not a pleasant thing either,” Brasher said. 

She invited the county commissioners to the next PAL board meeting on Monday, Nov. 18, at 10 a.m. at the Dogan Cobb Municipal Building on U.S. 27A in Bronson.