2009-09-03 / Front Page

Goodrich turning ownership of library over to Atlas Twp.

BY ROBERTO ACOSTA STAFF WRITER

GOODRICH — The Village of Goodrich decided to relinquish ownership of the public library to Atlas Township after a two-hour joint meeting last week.

Township Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones said she was happy action is being taken in resolving the library issue, but she cautioned against a joyous celebration.

“Sometimes it’s more costly to maintain something than build something new,” she said. The township, once it receives ownership, will have a company analyze the building for a recommendation on repairs to the 116-year-old library at 10237 Hegel Rd.,, whose original use was as the Atlas Town Hall.

“We want to put a number on how much work is needed,” said Kautman-Jones. “Are we talking $200,000, $500,000? We’re not going to throw money here or money there and find out, uh-oh, we need wiring done or something else.”

Village Board President Ed York said $10,000 in insurance money received for building repairs would be turned over to the township, in addition to the village’s previous funding proposal of $6,000 in 2009, $4,000 in 2010 and $2,000 in 2011.

York said while the village will phase out funding in 2012, it will continue to aid in maintenance of the grounds and street in front of the building.

“We’re not abandoning it,” he said. “But, if we don’t come up with a solution, this library is going to disappear no matter what.”

York added operation costs for the structure, between $20,000 and $25,000 each year, has been “disproportionately put on the village” for several years.

He said a visit was paid to Kautman-Jones following her election in 2008, where York told her funding “was going to be an issue with declining revenue from the state.”

York noted the village lost $30,000 in tax revenue and $30,000 from the state last year, and expects similar financial strife in the coming year. Kautman-Jones said the township is also experiencing distress in their budget, floating the possibility of a quarter mill to pay for the library’s future operating costs being placed on the November 2010 gubernatorial ballot.

“We don’t have a bottomless pocket at the township,” she said. “The next major thing that the library needs is going to cost money.”

“We can say we’re not in favor of an assessment, but we have to find funding from somewhere,” Kautman-Jones said in response to Township Clerk Teri Onica, Treasurer Anne Marie Slagle and Board members Barry June and Scott Statson’s flat rejection of such a proposal. “It (the library) is not going to operate on zero.”

Onica said many people are struggling in the current economy enough, and the funding situation required thinking “outside the box.”

“We can’t keep dipping into our general fund,” she said. “We need that fund for roads, bridges and other expenses. We’re in a negative right now, we’re bleeding out.”

Village Board members Dave Lucik and Rick Horton said an $8 to $12 assessment per year for operating costs was reasonable.

“$10 a year is not going to make or break anybody sitting here,” said Horton. “It’s not a big deal.”

Kautman-Jones and York agreed the millage would allow for residents to decide the future of the library, as well as possiblyconvening a library board to oversee the facility’s maintenance and finances in the future.

“A millage gives the people an opportunity to make the choice ... for or against it. Any money from it must go to the library,” York said. “”If this is left in the hand of politicians, this could be going on for a long time.”

Kautman-Jones said the township, village and Friends of the Library are looking at possible energy efficiency, historical area and other grants, but those are all speculative and matching funds are needed for many of those possibilities.

Sharleen Gonzalez, president of Friends of the Goodrich-Atlas Library group, said she was pleased at the decisions made by the boards, but said much work is left to be done.

“I certainly hope you would include us in on those discussions,” she said, adding the ownership decision will allow the Friends group to move forward with talks they’re in about possible grants since becoming classified as a nonprofit organization.

Goodrich resident Barbara Crumm just hopes something can be done to save the building.

“It would grieve me if we didn’t have a library,” said Crumm. “A library anywhere is a thing that enhances the community.”

Dawn Van Fleteren, a Grand Blanc resident, said “There isn’t much left downtown in Goodrich.”

“That library is a hub,” she said. “Kids go in the summertime on their bikes. It’s a central point in the area. If it’s gone ... what would be left?”

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