Libraries make a comeback

As a county-wide library funding solution came together on Tuesday morning, the Ashland City Council remained resolute on Tuesday evening that Ashland voters should still support a city tax levy in September.

Some on the council think the levy should still be instituted to augment the service Jackson County has planned, which would scale back operation hours in Ashland to 24 a week.

"We need to keep our eye on the ball and get the levy passed," Councilor Russ Silbiger said. "The service levels the county is offering is not what Ashland is looking for."

Others councilors thought it was still needed because the solution the county worked out &

with a private company from Maryland &

is a step in the wrong direction.

"I see this as union-busting tactics and a way to undermine public libraries," said Councilor Eric Navickas. "I think this all started in a right-wing think tank somewhere as a way to privatize libraries."

Ashlanders will vote in September on a property tax levy that could add $.58 per thousand dollars of the assessed value of real estate. Mayor John Morrison said that total could be reduced if less money is needed.

"We don't have to spend more than we have to," he said. At this late date, the ballot measure cannot be removed.

Hours after the Jackson County Budget Committee announced that it was outsourcing operation of the 15 area libraries to Library Systems and Services LLC (LSSI), County Administrator Danny Jordan gave a presentation to the council on LSSI's proposal. He said hours of operation would be cut in half, but so would the taxpayer's bill.

"We know we won't have the library system we had before," Jordan told the council. "I know you don't necessarily agree with the direction we are going. I know where Ashland stands. But we have to take into consideration 14 other districts."

Ashland City Administrator Martha Bennett said the council has four options in light of the county's decision.

She said the city could accept the county's solution, but added, "24 hours is not very much."

The city could augment hours of operation, she said, from 24 to 40 for about $240,000, or to 48 hours for about $360,000.

Bennett is also looking into a "hybrid solution," under which the city could hire its own employees and still have access to the county collection of books and other services. She called this option "contractually complex."

Ashland could "go it alone," without the county, she said, but this would be the most expensive and, in a memo, added, "probably involves [a] legal dispute" with Jackson County.

The council will hold a special meeting on Monday night from 6 to 8 p.m. in Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St. to discuss further how it will proceed.

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