0

Commissioners, Library Board chair spar over library closures

Southside Branch Library at 2114 Habersham Road is one of two Dougherty County libraries which closed due to budget funding cuts.

Southside Branch Library at 2114 Habersham Road is one of two Dougherty County libraries which closed due to budget funding cuts.

photo

Guy Craft, the chairman of the Public Library Board, gestures while talking to the Dougherty County Commission Monday. Craft attempted to justify the board's decision to close two library branches.

ALBANY, Ga. — The closure of two Albany library branches had Dougherty County commissioners sparring with public Library Board members Monday, leading County Commissioner John Hayes to call for board Chairman Guy Craft’s resignation.

“Here’s my conclusion,” Hayes said. “We need to find someone who can chair that board successfully.”

“You can find any chairman you like,” Craft responded.

“Maybe we should,” Hayes replied.

Earlier in the meeting, Craft took exception to comments made by Hayes, who has publicly expressed concern over the fact that commissioners learned of the library closures through media reports after the Library Board had already made its decision, leaving them all but helpless to do anything to stop the closures or even explain them to angry constituents.

“I take umbrage with one of your commissioners calling me and accusing me of concealing anything,” Craft said.

Library Board officials said the closures were determined by factors including under-utilization and health insurance cost increases, not because of the facilities’ locations. The board is dealing with a $121,000 budget shortfall.

Craft repeatedly told commissioners Monday that if they wanted to give the Library Board more money, they’d be able to reopen the two closed libraries.

The board decided last month to close the Southside and Westtown libraries, leaving Dougherty County with three branches — Central, Northwest and Tallulah Massey. Board members have attributed the closures to an increase in the state-run health care plan, increasing utility costs and reduced funding from the Dougherty County Commission and the state of Georgia.

That decision sparked outrage, particularly among minority groups that contend the libraries that served the people who needed access to educational materials the most were the ones that were shuttered. It’s a contention that Craft rebuked during the meeting.

"We crunched the numbers. ... Westtown and Southside were getting 16 percent of the services, leaving 84 percent to the other libraries," he said. "This has nothing to do with what neighborhood they were in."

Later in the meeting, in response to a question from the commission table, Craft said the "disadvantaged population" served by the libraries weren't a consideration by board members when the decision was made.

"We didn't consider that; we focused on utilization and costs, but we could if you'd like us to," Craft said.

County Commissioner Jack Stone suggested opening the two closed libraries for three hours each day after school so that children in those neighborhoods would at least have access to the materials to help with homework or research papers, possibly even using volunteers rather than paid library professionals to help man the structures during that time.

Craft said the County Commission should provide adequate funding to operate the libraries, not keep them partially open as babysitting services.

"Either you fund the library entirely or not," Craft said. "We aren't here to babysit."

Before the end of the meeting, Hayes apologized for letting the tone of the conversation escalate but said that someone has to stand up for the people who will now be at a disadvantage through the loss of the libraries.

"From time to time, we're going to have issues come before this commission that raise our dander and things can get emotional ... but someone has to guard the gate for our children," Hayes said.

Comments

Cartman 1 year, 8 months ago

Guy Craft and his board made a sound and fair decision based upon fiscal responsibility. Now he is being unfairly attacked by political bureaucrat commissioners. Sounds like we need Guy Craft on the County Commission.

5

ugamike 1 year, 8 months ago

I think Dr. Craft as the board chairman is doing the right thing. I did some research on Dr. Craft and he is a retired librarian so he would know something about what it takes to run a library.

1

bubbavet 1 year, 8 months ago

Sounds like the same old political bull crap.

0

MRKIA 1 year, 8 months ago

WHY WOULD THE COMMISSION WANT TO OPEN A LIBRARY FOR ONLY 3HRS A DAY WHEN THE FACILITY WOULD HAVE TO BE MAINTAINED 24HRS A DAY? IT IS TRUE THAT PARENTS DIRECT THEIR KIDS TO THE LIBRARY JUST AS A PLACE TO BE WHILE THEY ARE STILL AT WORK (OR PLAY). THAT IS WHAT THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS ARE FOR. ALSO THE COUNTY SHOULD NOT BE RUNNING INTERNET CAFE'S, WHICH IS WHAT MANY LIBRARIES HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO.

1

Progressive 1 year, 8 months ago

Hayes said, "we need to find someone who can chair that board successfully."

No, what we need are commissioners who can lead. Most of the county commissioners have not provided this community with the appropriate direction for managing the budget. They have failed for the past 5 years by continuing to use up the reserve funds, and failed to implement any cost reduction initiatives that would prevent a property tax increase for the unincorporated area. Hayes was on the Finance Committee and failed to pursue any type of budget reductions = NONE! We have a library chairman trying to do the right thing by cutting cost, and now a commissioner wants him to resign. This is absurdity at its best!

3

KaosinAlbany 1 year, 8 months ago

It's all a ploy so that the group who opposes the libraries being closed will vote for T-SPLOST.

1

formeralbanyresident 1 year, 8 months ago

I also oppose the libraries being closed, but I am still voting YES for TSPLOST.

1

VietVet1 1 year, 8 months ago

"Here's my conclusion," Hayes said, "we need to find someone who can chair that board successfully." OK Mr. Hayes when are you resigning? Talk about calling the kettle black.

3

shep 1 year, 8 months ago

Typical ineptitude of our so called leaders in this city.

0

ugamike 1 year, 8 months ago

As I look at the video I noticed Mrs. Edwards does not know the library hours have changed again to 10-2 on Sat. These commissioners are so out of touch I'm pretty sure Richard Crowdis knew about what goes on in a county department!

1

Progressive 1 year, 8 months ago

For all of those still wanting the Libraries to remain open, the solution is very simple - come up with the money to re-open them. If you do not have the money, then quit asking others to fund them for you. Sometimes you have to make tough choices on what you can afford. It is not popular and there is always someone affected. Consider this also, there are no Libraries in the southern part of the county. So what happens to the kids in those districts? Do we build more libraries just to be convenient for everyone?

1

MRKIA 1 year, 8 months ago

I BELIEVE IT WAS STONE WHO STATED THAT SOME FOLKS DON'T HAVE TRANSPORTATION TO GET TO THE LIBRARY. BETCHA THEY CAN FIND A WAY TO THE WEAVE SHOP OR NAIL SHOP. CATCH A BUS OR A CAB OR STOP BY ON YOUR WAY TO THE MALL. WANT INTERNET? STROLL ON OVER TO MCDONALDS, KENTUCKY FRIED OR B.K. THE INTERNET IS FREE.

0

howsad 1 year, 8 months ago

How sad...Do I detect perhaps some political grandstanding on the part of Comm Hayes? He sits on the Finance Committee and is privy to in-depth briefings and analysis of funding for each and every Department in the County during the budget formulation process. He had opportunity for direct involvement in the initial funding decisions for the library. So...we have either the political grandstanding...or the possibility that Comm. Hayes didn't due proper due diligence as a member of the Finance Committee during the months leading up to budget approval. Which is it Mr Hayes? The bottom line is that an analysis of usage of the two closed branches would reveal that they were merely a free internet cafe for a small group of citizens...most of which are part of the entitlement society.

1

whattheheck 1 year, 8 months ago

If John Hayes wants them open, let him and Capitol City pick up the tab but whether utilization would increase is still the issue. When a group of black ministers addressed the commission a few weeks ago, one, Melvin George, said that the libraries had a reputation for being in a crime area and that is why utilization was low. His solution? Put a cop in each branch! What a crock. Keep them closed unless some group other than the taxpayers, say like the black minister's churches, wants to pony up for the tab.

Although John tried to make points by not supporting the recent property tax increase proposal, which he knew would pass without his vote, he is showing his true colors as one who really supports spending rather than saving. Another crock!

0

missdaisy 1 year, 8 months ago

Why not staff all libraries with volunteers? There are plenty of retired teachers, lawyers, doctors, preachers, accountants, parents, etc. that could be called upon to help. I expect a volunteer would be more dedicated than an under paid staff member.

0

formeralbanyresident 1 year, 8 months ago

If they were not in crime ridden areas, you might have some that would volunteer. I personally would not in those locations.

0

ugamike 1 year, 8 months ago

Who is going to pay for the utilities and the upkeep of that library? Along with materials such as book and other things? People don't take into account these things all coming out the library budget!

0

rightasrain 1 year, 8 months ago

Let the DOCO Commissioners eat cake!

0

Dino58 1 year, 8 months ago

I am not sure if Hayes is arrogant or just ignorant. Attacking Dr. Craft for a fiscally responsible decision is typical of him. Just as typical as him thinking he is above having to pay speeding citations because he is a commisioner.

1

Sign in to comment