Southside Branch Library at 2114 Habersham Road is one of two Dougherty County libraries which closed due to budget funding cuts.
ALBANY, Ga. — Community activist Bishop John Burr with the Peoples Clergy Community Involvement group asked the Dougherty County Commission Monday to name him chairman of the county library board and to allow him to work to reopen two closed library branches.
“Mr. (Guy) Craft said at the meeting (July 30) that he would resign (as chairman of that board),” Burr told the commission. “If Mr. Craft resigns and you appoint me chairman of the library board, we can keep those libraries (Southside and Westtown branches) open utilizing the resources available.”
Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said after the meeting he had no indication that Craft planned to resign from the library board.
“Mr Craft has not, as far as I know, resigned,” Sinyard said. “That being the case, (Burr’s request) is not a talking point at this time.”
Craft, meanwhile, took Burr to task for his comments to the commission, accusing Burr of “posturing.”
“I have no intention of resigning from the library board,” Craft said Monday. “And even if I did, I don’t think Mr. Burr has the ability to head the board. He sounds like Al Gore trying to claim he invented the Internet; it sounds like he’s posturing.
“If he can, as he said, raise $300,000, I’d like to know where it would come from. Maybe he’s got some kind of magic wand.”
Burr said he would “set aside political views and race” as head of the library board and “look at the character and content of our children.” He assured commissioners he has the qualifications to hold the position.
“I helped land the first man on the moon at the Kennedy Space Center,” Burr said. “I have the training necessary to keep those libraries open with what we have now.”
Burr mentioned a $121,000 shortfall in library funding during his presentation, and Commissioner Jack Stone asked where he got that figure.
“I read it in the newspaper,” Burr said.
Stone replied, “The newspaper did not shut the libraries.”
Commissioner Gloria Gaines told Burr she would continue to look into the matter.
“I do share your concerns,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, this issue is not over. I am not happy with the results.”
Craft said he’s been vilified in the black community for “trying to do what’s right,” and he indicated that the miscommunication between the library board and the County Commission lay with County Administrator Richard Crowdis.
“Mr. Crowdis told the commission he learned about (the library closings) from the newspaper, but that’s not true,” Craft said. “I told him possibly two months ago that we were considering closing the two branches, but he obviously did not tell commissioners. I think he was trying to protect his job.
“If the commission wants to make Mr. Burr chairman, I’d step aside. But I don’t think my board would accept that. All of us worked as hard as we could to keep those library branches open, but we had to look at the numbers and the usage of each branch. It had nothing to do with race.”
Commissioners also heard reports from staff Monday on a rezoning request made by Jason and Laurie Pitts for their business at North County Line Road, a recommendation to approve TTL of Albany’s $32,535 bid for environmental monitoring services at the county landfill, an amendment suggestion to allow quarterly jail health service payments rather than monthly, and a quit claim deed that would return to the city property that had been the site of the county-sponsored First Tee program.
Sinyard gave each commissioner a memo that outlines his or her thoughts on an action plan on the county’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
We need “to continue to explore each and every line item within our budgets to identify specific reductions in spending and also to identify possible alternatives that will result in cost savings while maintaining quality,” Sinyard wrote.
“I know this is common sense,” Sinyard said, “but we’re in a climate like we’ve never seen before. By taking this proactive approach, hopefully we’ll come up with some better ideas.”
Gaines praised the memo.
“Last year taught us some hard, hard lessons,” she said. “I’m happy to see us get an early start.”