On September 12, supporters of Friends of the Intermountain Library (FOIL) drove down to Redding to request the release of funds for the purchase of a new library building in Redding.
Four members of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors were present for the meeting: Chairman David Kehoe from District 1, Mary Rickert from District 3, Steve Morgan from District 4, and Les Baugh from District 5. District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty was not present.
The presentation was not an action item on the agenda so no vote on release of funds was taken. However, after discussion, the Board voted unanimously to make the issue of the Burney Library an action item at a future meeting.
On January 28, 2014, The Shasta County Board of Supervisors held a meeting to determine distribution of money from Hatchet Ridge Community Benefit Funds. The minutes of that meeting state that the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a “grant for community learning, as amended, as a $400,000 one-time grant for a new Burney Library Project Capital Campaign, to be awarded to the Friends of the Intermountain Library upon completion of successful fund-raising.”
At that time, the Board also directed County Executive Officer Larry Lees to prepare the necessary grant agreements. In the motion, the exact amount of money designated as “successful fundraising” was not specified. The presumed understanding was that it would be an amount that would ensure successful performance of the project.
Since that time, FOIL has raised $143,000 plus pledges for additional money, in-kind donations and services. FOIL has located a building on Main Street. The market value of the property is currently $281,000. In consultation with the Shasta County Library Advisory Council and others FOIL developed a plan for purchase and renovation of the building and expansion of services. It is an innovative plan that would involve public and private partnership.
Prior to the September 12 meeting, FOIL had provided each of the Board Members with a copy of their plan as well as a detailed description of the benefits the new building would provide.
FOIL’s presentation to the Board and the Board’s response began just before 9:30 a.m. and lasted for about 50 minutes.
Chairman Kehoe prefaced the presentation by asking County Executive Officer Larry Lee’s to “set the stage” by providing background information.
Mr. Lees explained that the Board had previously allocated $400,000 to be committed to a new Burney Library that would be released after successful fundraising to ensure completion of the project. He said that the money was set aside so that it would not be spent anywhere else.
Then Mary Rickert spoke briefly to welcome those who had come from the Intermountain Area to speak to the Board.
Chairman Kehoe clarified that the hearing of the presentation was a non-actionable item and that no vote would be taken. He invited Board member Baugh to introduce the speakers.
Eleven speakers addressed the Board. Each speaker was limited to three minutes.
The first speaker was Melanie Kerns, a member of the Board of Directors of FOIL.
Ms. Kerns commented on the history of the relationship between FOIL and the Board of Supervisors and past studies of what could be done. She asserted that “we know what can be done and are confident that all of the major obstacles that were present in the past can now be overcome with some cooperation and coordination between FOIL and Shasta County.”
She requested that the $400,000 being held be released to purchase and refit the new building. She described the advantages of the new building. Space would be increased from 1700 sq. feet to over 4300 sq. feet. This would allow privacy for the literacy program. She said that the current building has almost no room for children’s programs. The new facility would have a special “children’s corner” thanks to a grant for $25,000 from the Rotary Club of Burney-Fall River.
Ms. Kerns said that FOIL has met the requirements of adequate fundraising. They have over $134,000 but are in jeopardy of losing grant money because we are “running out of time.” She referred Board Members to the packet detailing how the building could be refitted for a reasonable amount of money supplemented by in-kind work by licensed contractors along with volunteers. She cited examples of successful execution of community projects in the Intermountain Area such as the community swimming pool. The new library would be of benefit to many people in the Intermountain area including children, teens, and the Native American population.
After concluding her written remarks she read one of hundreds of post cards written by students supporting the new library.
Jocelyn in the 3rd grade wrote that “in the new library I can learn hair styles and how to be a secret spy.”
The second speaker was FOIL board member Pat Bell.
Ms. Bell read a letter from Cindy Dodds, executive director of the TriCounties Community Network. In her letter Ms. Dodds testified to the decades long success of the TriCounties Network as an example of the community spirit of people in Burney and made a plea for the release of the funds to implement the new library project. After reading the letter, Ms. Bell also read a post card from one of the students.
Next, FOIL member Charla Connelley came forward to read a letter from Elizabeth Tyler, communications director for Burney Disposal.
The letter expressed strong support for the release of funds for the new building from the company, it’s stockholders, and its employees. It detailed the reasons why the new library was needed, pointing out the current library built in the 1960’s would not meet current codes. It is in a flood plain in a secluded area of the town and does not have adequate heating or air conditioning. Access after snow storms is limited. Internet access is insufficient. Ms. Tyler succinctly summarized the advantages that modern information services provide to the community, especially for young people but also for job seekers and lifetime learners.
Ms. Connelly concluded by reading another post card.
The next speaker was Fran Collier.
She referred people to the information packet with which they had been provided explaining that it detailed the plan and included numerous letters from residents and businesses in the area. She explained that it was a project to benefit the whole Intermountain Area. She also explained that many grantors had expressed that they could not consider a grant until the organization actually had a facility. Once the facility was established they could consider the grant so that more funds could be made available. She expressed the hope that FOIL and the County could now move forward in partnership to bring the project to fruition. She also stressed the frustration of people in the area that process had taken such a long time and raised the question as to what was necessary to make the request an actionable item.
Next Bill Campbell, Immediate Past President of the Rotary Club of Burney-Fall River spoke.
Mr. Campbell said the Rotary Club has committed $10,000 to the project. They also invited Rotary District 5160 and the Rotary Foundation to join them and they added an additional grant of $15,000 for a total pool of $25,000.
Rotary did this because it supports three of the goals of Rotary: literacy, child health, and community development. The vision of Rotary for this project is that there will be a “Children’s Corner,” one room dedicated to childhood learning and development. Campbell described a vision that would create first class facilities and programs for children from throughout the Intermountain Area. The projected lifespan of the new library would be 50 years and the library estimates that during that period 25,000 children would be served – 2,000 children a year.
Mr. Campbell then explained that the grant that they received is a two-year grant. Fifteen months have passed. There are nine months left to acquire the building, make the necessary improvements, and construct the children’s center. The project needs to be completed by June 29, 2018. Otherwise the grant period will expire and the $15,000 will be returned to the Rotary Foundation. If this were to happen it is likely that the $10,000 from the local Rotary would likely be put to other uses.
The next speaker was Alex Colvin, a resident of Burney.
Mr. Colvin shared that when an opportunity to tutor teens at the Intermountain Teen center arose, he went to the present library for materials to refresh his math knowledge. He said that based upon his experience he can testify that the library is badly in need of expanded space and more books.
He said that the vision of FOIL not just about the building and books. It is to create an information hub to expand Shasta County Public Library services for the entire Intermountain area. This would include library programs such as adult literacy programs and veterans services that are available in Redding but have not been available in the Intermountain Area.
Mr. Colvin also pointed out that Eastern Shasta County generates a large amount of revenue for the County from tourist and real estate taxes as well as fees. Some people question whether there is equitable distribution of these funds. The present request is merely asking for release of funds that were given to the County to benefit Burney and the surrounding area and have already been allocated for this purpose. The release would be a “big thing,” generating trust in the County government and maintaining good will.
In closing, Mr. Colvin said that the plan of public and private cooperation including in-kind services and volunteer labor proposed by FOIL is an exciting new paradigm that could be of great benefit in an era of recurring budget crises.
Michael Kerns, Rotary member and community leader, was the next speaker.
Mr. Kerns briefly affirmed his support as a member of Rotary and then read three more postcards from the children of Burney. One from sixth-grader Kylie said succinctly, “More books, more knowledge!”
The next four speakers were from organizations in the Redding area.
Peggy O’Lea, from the Shasta Library Foundation, recounted that the citizens of Burney have been very supportive of the strengthening of the library hub in Redding. She said that the experience in Redding has shown the importance of adequate physical facilities and the opportunities they provide in meeting community informational needs. She said that these opportunities are especially important in geographically isolated areas and she encouraged the Board to work with the Burney community to find mutually agreeable options to provide an improved library presence in the Intermountain area.
The next speaker was Kimberly Ross, the chair of the Library Advisory Committee.
Ms. Ross was a reporter for Record Searchlight for ten years. During that time she covered the Hat Creek Wind project and interviewed residents of the Intermountain area. Business people and residents wanted to be sure that they would have something to gain from having the wind turbines built “in their back yard.” In one of her stories, one Burney resident and businessman told her that he “wanted to be sure that they don’t forget us again.”
Regarding the $400,000 that has been set aside, Ms, Ross said, “This proposed library building is the project you have been waiting for!”
She went on to say that FOIL was charged with finding an appropriate affordable building. She asserted that they have “more that met that challenge.” She said that the building is currently assessed at $281,000 with renovations needed at a cost of approximately $80,000. She maintained that further renovations could be accomplished with the help of in-kind donations which have already been committed demonstrating the community support for the building.
She said that the members of the members of the Library Advisory Committee have been monitoring the progress of FOIL’s effort and “we unanimously support spending the Windmill funding on the proposed Burney Library Building.”
She urged the Board to act quickly so as not to lose some of the funding which had been provided. She encouraged the Board to study the plan and the figures carefully so that they could see that “they add up to a successful library.”
The next speaker was Kim Niemer, Community Services Director for the City of Redding. Ms. Niemer oversees library contracts and works closely with the Library Advisory Committee.
Ms. Niemer thanked the Board for the joint venture that they have in the public library system and acknowledged that investments in the Redding Library have been of great benefit to both the Burney and Anderson branches. Benefits filter “up the mountain and down the valley.”
She said that she has worked with public/private partnerships and that there are a lot of good ideas out there that need to be tested. She said that FOIL has come through with “flying colors” in terms of their demonstrating their capacity to generate community support and raise funding.
She went on to say that she thinks FOIL has gone as far as they can and it is time for the Board to assign a liaison with direction and authority to help them “jump the hurdles” involved in County contracts and such matters to bring things to a successful conclusion.
The next speaker was Laura Burnett representing Library Systems and Services (LS&S). LS&S provides the staff and the librarians in all three branches of the Shasta County Public Library System.
Ms. Burnett began by saying that “our company of librarians fully supports this effort and we see a lot of groups putting together library plans and this one is rock solid. I am confident that we will be able to find a financial model that we can work with under our current fund to operate the proposed facility as FOIL has put it together.”
She said she is confident that better visibility and access from being on a state route will equal more and better usage for everyone in the Intermountain Area as well as tourists.
She said that the new facility will accommodate better technology than the old facility will not allow. Having that technology would also increase the hours of operation of the Burney Library.
She said that the large number of card holders that the Burney library has for a small community demonstrates the love that the people have for their library and and deserves to have a facility that will meet their current and future needs.
After finishing her remarks, Supervisor Baugh asked Ms. Burnett if she was saying that there would be no additional funds necessary to operate the new library.
Ms. Burnett said that, together with Ms. Niemer, she monitors and administers the five-year contract for staff and materials. She and Ms. Niemer have worked together to ensure that they will not need to ask for any more funds for staff or materials than what is provided under the current contract.
Mr. Baugh pursued the question by asking whether a request for additional funds had been made for the Anderson Library. Ms. Niemar came forward to answer the question and explained that they had reduced spending in Burney by $10,000 by eliminating one position.
Ms. Niemar went on to explain that the library business, especially in smaller remote communities, is using a lot more non-staff operating hours using more up to date technology and alternative service models.
Following Ms. Burnett’s presentation Chairman Kehoe expressed his appreciation to all of the speakers for coming to express their opinions. He then asked the Board for comments.
Supervisor Rickert was the first to respond. She told about how important the Fall River Library had been in her 30 years’ experience as a resident of the Intermountain area.
Mr. Baugh spoke more at length delivering a six minute critique of the presentation.
He said that he recalled the comments and the presentations made at the time the money for the library was allocated by the Board. He called it a “community agreement” that set aside a “potential” $400,000 for a library in Burney. He insisted however that it came with a “caveat” that an action plan complete with all relevant financial paths would be taken to get that money released.
He then went on to say “We are not the McConnell Foundation. We are not administering private dollars. The Shasta County Board of Supervisors administers public money. We are not allowed by law to gamble with those resources.”
He said he had several objections to the presentation. One is that he doesn’t find a clear financial path. He finds only “hope that alludes to that path.”
He then queried when the previous meeting had occurred and without receiving a reply went on to say that the meeting (which had taken place in 2014) had actually occurred “five or six years ago.”
Mr. Baugh alleged that “five or six years ago the same audience from Burney said, ‘We’re going to raise 2 million dollars and we’re going to have it in a couple of years.”
(The minutes from the meeting on January 28, 2014 (http://www.co.shasta.ca.us/docs/libraries/bos-docs/2014-minutes/min2014-01-28.pdf?sfvrsn=7) do not reflect that it was the same audience, nor do they indicate that anyone pledged to raise 2 million dollars.)
Mr. Baugh then went on to say, “I haven’t looked at your plans in terms of what it might cost. I don’t know the details of renovating a new building, but in the County world of prevailing wage and County resources, nothing can be accomplished for $80,000. I would go as far as to say you couldn’t even build a bathroom for $80,000.”
He said that the last remodel for a building of comparable size was about a million dollars.
Mr. Baugh then went on to talk about the independent Cottonwood library that “does not have to come to this Board of Supervisors to ask for any path forward, for any direction.”
He further explained that they have an Honorary Mayor who is elected by raising money for a local 501-C3 organization and praised the Cottonwood model.
Mr. Baugh said that he believes that the Burney Library should be completely independent of the County.
He then interrupted his comments to say, “I see some head-shaking but this my time to speak and my time to share my perspective and my perspective is you should not want to come to the County…”
He then “tossed out a little carrot,” saying that he would be willing to consider the $400,000 as a part of the money for an independent Burney system that was separate from the County system.
He concluded by saying that he would not be “willing to have a discussion to simply allow $400,000 without knowing the future.”
After Mr. Baugh concluded his remarks, Chairman Kehoe invited Supervisor Morgan to comment.
Mr. Morgan thanked all of the speakers and said that when the Burney Library is built he hopes that the post cards will be framed and displayed to show the children do want a good library where they can study and learn.
Following the boards comments, Chairman Kehoe revisited the question raised by Fran Collier as to how the discussion that had been held today could be transported to become and action item.
He delineated two paths. First, as Chairman, he could unilaterally make it an action item. He said he felt disinclined to do so without the concurrence of his colleagues. He noted that Mr. Baugh had suggested broadening the discussion. He also noted that it had been discussed that they allocate the $400,000 “at variance with the previous Board decision.”
The Chair then asked the board members if there was a consensus to put this as an action item on the agenda at a future board meeting.
Mr. Morgan agreed. Mr. Baugh consented providing there would be a broader discussion platform. Ms. Rickert also agreed to do so “with all options.”
Mr. Kehoe said that he had been advised by County Counsel to take a formal vote on the matter. Ms. Rickert made a motion that they bring it forward as an agenda item. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously.
Therefore the decision regarding the Burney Library will be on the agenda as an action item at a future board meeting.