By Fred Woods
Twenty supporters of the Horseshoe Bend Regional Library, apparently believing county funding for the library had been zeroed out of the FY2017 Lee County budget, appeared at the Lee County Commission meeting to attest to the value of library services to Lee County residents and urge restoration of funding to the organization, two weeks after the FY2017 budget for the county was approved, at the Sept. 26 meeting. Several supporters of the Lee County Historical Society also asked for restoration of their funding reduction.
What the commission actually approved in the FY2017 County Budget, as was reported in the October 5 issue of the Observer, was a reduction of $15,000 to the county support of the Horseshoe Bend Regional Library, from $$23,592 (2016) to $8,500 (2017, and a reduction of $6,900 to support the Lee County Historical Society, from $9,400 (2016) to $2,500 (2017).
The reduction in funds to the Horseshoe Bend Library came after various commissioners had questioned, over the past several years, the benefits to Lee County residents. Several commissioners agreed that, if the information presented Tuesday had been available when FY2017 budget decisions were being made, the budget cut would not have been nearly so great. The Lee County Historical Society reduction put that organization at basically the same level as the Museum of East Alabama, the only other museum supported in the county budget.
This portion of the FY2017 Lee County Budget, called the “Service Contracts and Appropriation List” was approved by a 4 to 1 vote with Commissioner Eckman casting the only “no” vote at the previous meeting.
The motion to authorize Chairman English to execute contracts and transfer funds to the various agencies was approved by a 3 to 2 vote with Commissioner Lawrence joining Ms. Eckman in voting “no.”
The Horseshoe Bend Regional Library system is a partnership of libraries now in Coosa, Elmore, Lee and Tallapoosa counties which has operated since 1950 when Lee County partnered with Tallapoosa County to begin the system which primarily provides bookmobile services to rural residents and others who cannot go to the organized ten member libraries in the the four-county area. In Lee County, both the Auburn Public Library and Opelika’s Cooper Memorial Library are members, with Cooper re-joining in July of this year.
The Horseshoe Bend bookmobile makes regular monthly stops at Auburn and Opelika senior citizen homes and several locations in rural and urban Lee County.
The library director, Susie Anderson, told the commission that the library may have to close its doors and park its bookmobiles if the $15,000 Lee County reduction is not restored. Anderson said that Horseshoe Bend received $255,000 in state funds last year which required a match by local funds. This means the library has a total annual budget greater than a half million dollars. The Lee County reduction of $15,000 really means a total budget reduction of $30,000 because of the match, serious enough to cause program cutbacks but hardly enough, it would appear, to shut down the system.
Lee County funding to the library has shrunk over the years form $33,500 in 2010 to $23,592 last year as commissioners each year questioned library benefits to Lee County residents. Apparently It took a $15,000 reduction to get their question answered.
The commission also unanimously approved a 10-year tax abatement to Howard Porter of Auburn for a distribution warehouse he is building just outside the Auburn city limits on US Hwy. 29-South. The business is expected to employ 30 people, with an annual payroll over $1,000,000. The tax abatement includes all state and local noneducational property taxes except those allocated to hospitals and dependent children, and will amount to an estimated $100,000 over the period.
In other action the commission
* approved, at Mr. Rendleman’s request, for a reduction of $45,699 (savings to the county) in the construction contract for the new recycling building on Williamson Avenue,
* authorized Mr. Rendleman to sign a lease with USDA for space in the county-owned Agricultural Extension Building calling for a rent of $80,640.10 annually, a $2.50 per square foot increase over the old agreement,
– heard a request from Rendleman to review county personnel policy revisions and consider their adoption at the next commission meeting,
– received nominations for four vacant positions on the Lee County Cemetery Preservation Committee,
– appointed four new members to the Lee County Recreation Board,
– approved a revision to the personnel manager position in the Sheriff’s office, and
– passed a resolution supporting a “yes” vote on Amendment 14 on the Nov. 8 ballot. Amendment 14 corrects a technical issue that occurred in the voting process over the past 30 years. Unless this passes some 500 pieces of local legislation could be challenged, not on their merits, but because of the way the legislature passed them.