With a date of Dec. 10 set for a 2013 budget vote, West Point Council appeared no closer Tuesday night to solving its library issue, even after hearing impassioned pleas from supporters of Hawkes Library.
“Whatever you do, can you get a plan and let us know?” asked resident Trudye Johnson. Johnson made reference to the fact West Point has struggled every year with how to fund Hawkes, which is in West Point, and Bradshaw library in Valley, Ala., and provide proper library services.
“This is getting old,” Johnson said.
“Can I get an amen to that?” Mayor Drew Ferguson IV said.
Councilwoman Judy Wilkinson was asked, along with Councilman Joe Downs, to look into how the city funds its libraries and what services were offered. Right now the city has $30,000 budgeted for libraries, which it normally splits between the two. The current budget proposes an even $15,000 split, which would be an increase in funding for both.
As part of the negotiations this year, the city not only has heard from both libraries but also talked to the Troup-Harris Regional Library system. West Point residents’ county property taxes technically help fund the regional system, but Hawkes is not a member and residents say it’s too far for many to travel to LaGrange or Hamilton to use a library. Many of the patrons of Hawkes library are there to use the computer to help in job searches.
Wilkinson proposed Tuesday night that Hawkes receive $23,000 from the city – which it had requested earlier this month for needed new computers and a part-time worker that would allow the library to expand its hours. The other $7,000 would not go to Bradshaw but be held in a reserve, pending the library’s coming up with a strategic plan.
Wilkinson said the $7,000 could then be used if the library wants to move, expand or join with Troup-Harris. She also believed Bradshaw would survive without support from West Point, she said.
“They now have their own guaranteed revenue stream of 2 mills in property taxes,” she said. “They have interns from Point University. People in the Valley area are benefiting from Bradshaw and it seems like it should be flowing the other way.”
But Councilwoman Sandra Thornton said it is flowing the other way – Bradshaw has brought a reading program to the West Point Housing Authority as well as West Point Elementary School and several day cares.
“I think we need both (libraries),” she said. “West Point is not the same as Bradshaw. You can’t compare the two.”
Downs also disagreed with not funding Bradshaw, saying the city has a long-term strategic partnership with Chambers County that includes library services.
“I don’t think we want to pit one against the other,” he said.
Johnson said if the city doesn’t give some funding to Bradshaw, West Point residents will be charged a fee to use it. Currently, they have free use.
Meanwhile, Hawkes supporters told stories of the library – which is on the national register of historic places – and what it has meant to the city.
“I love the fact that this town supports Hawkes Library and I know you have for years,” said Amy McDow, co-president of Friends of Hawkes Library. “I hope you will continue. It is one of the greatest little treasures we have in this area.”