Escanaba, county look at library funding

ESCANABA – County and city officials will soon meet to discuss the funding of public libraries in Delta County.

The Delta County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to set aside a time to meet after being approached by City of Escanaba officials on funding of the Escanaba Public Library during Tuesday’s county board meeting. Commissioner Ann Jousma Miller was absent from the meeting.

According to Escanaba City Manager Jim O’Toole, the city was “respectfully asking for a commitment from Delta County in working together in trying to understand how penal fine funds are levied, divided up and distributed” between Delta County and the Escanaba Public Library.

Though 67 percent of library funding comes from city taxes and appropriations, 24 percent is based on state-mandated penal fines and 10 percent by grants, fines, and donations.

Penal fines are funds distributed based on tickets issued by law enforcement, according to Delta County Administrator Nora Viau.

From 2006 to 2013, $1.17 million worth of penal fine funds have been distributed to the Escanaba Public Library from tickets issued under state ordinance.

However, several questions have been raised on the way these penal fines have been distributed as they are based on a number of variables. O’Toole said by committing to come together to discuss how the fines work, all parties would have a better understanding of how penal fines have been dispersed since 2006 and how they will be dispersed in the future.

In addition, O’Toole asked the board to consider reinstating their discretionary contribution to the library by contributing $50,000 as the library does not serve just the residents of Escanaba but those in other Delta County townships as well.

According to Escanaba Public Library Director Carolyn Stacey, the library’s service area includes the City of Escanaba through establishment as well as 11 Delta County townships through contract.

The Gladstone School Public Library serves the school district and city of Gladstone as well as Brampton, Escanaba, and Masonville townships.

Board Vice-Chair Mary Harrington said she was not ready to make a $50,000 commitment to the library.

“When we start talking about $50,000 here and we’ve laid off employees and we have to build a new jail, quite frankly we’re up to our eyebrows in financial commitments right now and into the future,” she said. “To start saying I want to give $50,000 to somebody right now, I’m not ready to do that right now.”

Harrington inquired whether the city had looked into user fees.

Stacey said the library can only charge a non-resident user fee, which was recently raised to $35 annually, for those outside of the library’s service area.

“We are not permitted through the State of Michigan to charge user fees to people within our service area,” she said. “We will forfeit our penal fine revenue from that contractual area if we were to charge a service fee.”

Commissioner Dave Moyle said he was willing to sit down and discuss library funding issues as he thinks libraries are beneficial to the community.

“It is a resource that we have to protect or it’s going to go away,” he said.

Board Chairman Tom Elegeert agreed the parties involved need to meet and discuss the issues, but that representatives from the Gladstone library also need to be involved as they also receive penal fine funding.

In addition to their funding requests, O’Toole asked the county board to provide feedback on the city’s newly created five-year strategic plan, which has yet to be approved by Escanaba City Council.

The plan features “a refreshed mission, new vision, and carefully considered strategic direction” based on input from residents of the City of Escanaba and several townships in Delta County.

In other business, the board:

– approved a deficit elimination plan for two county funds – building and zoning and the juvenile drug grant – which had deficits in the amount of $6,950 and $9,140 respectively, based on audited financial statements from Sept. 30, 2013. According to Viau, under the deficit elimination plan the county will appropriate $10,000 to transfer to building and zoning to cover the deficit. In addition, a service agreement between the department and Menominee County will increase departmental revenues. An additional $15,000 appropriation from the child care fund to the juvenile drug grant was made to address that deficit.

– approved a county social media policy. The need for a policy arose as the Delta County Airport wanted to use social media as a marketing tool.

– approved a 20-year loan of up to $250,000 at 3 percent interest for the construction of new hangars with four bays at the Delta County Airport. The first payment on the loan will be due on Jan. 1, 2015.

– approved a quote from Master, Inc. to install a generator for the Emergency Operation Center which will be housed at the Delta County Service Center in the amount of $16,945.

– approved a quote from Billy Electric for electrical work in the reception area of the county jail in the amount of $3,419.

– approved a quote from CR Meyer for two jail cell under floor void infill in the amount of $16,950.

– accepted a letter from the Delta Area Transit Authority notifying they will seek two millages in the Aug. 5 election for Wells and Escanaba townships. The millages will request up to .5 mil over a five-year period to provide DATA services.

– approved an airport marketing grant for the Delta County Airport from MDOT in the amount of $8,800. MDOT will pay for 90 percent of this amount, with the airport funding the remaining 10 percent.

– approved a resolution and refunding contract with the Delta Solid Waste Management Authority, which according to Viau, allows DSWMA to refund their bonds at a better rate.

– adopted a proclamation declaring May as Head Start Month at the request of the Menominee-Delta-Schoolcraft Community Action Agency.