Smyrna Town Council unanimously approved a motion Monday night that voices their support of expanding library services in the town. The approval comes a few months after talks started back up regarding whether or not the town should take the reins of the library project.
Town Council voted in 2011 to get out of the library business and instead to support the Smyrna Public Library Guild, in building and then finding a way to operate a new facility. At the time, council acknowledged the need for a bigger facility but felt the town couldn't afford to be financially responsible.
The resolution states the town will "exercise good faith efforts to move forward as expeditiously as possible and to partner with the Guild, State Division of Libraries, Kent and New Castle Counties, and others to secure the funding commitments necessary to construct and operate a new regional public library in Smyrna."
Vice Mayor Regina Brown spoke in favor of the resolution Monday night as she's been one of the key pieces in bringing the conversation of the library back up in Smyrna.
"This is just a wonderful opportunity for the Town of Smyrna to take the lead in," Brown said. "I really view it [the resolution] as a baby step in a very long process."
Brown said to make the project happen, it would be necessary for all the parties involved including the library guild, town, state, and Kent and New Castle counties to work together.
Councilman Robert Johnson said he supported a new library but had concerns regarding finding funds to operate the library. Johnson said it's proposed the annual cost to operate a 25,000-square foot facility is $629,000. The 2013 operating budget for the current library is $315,000. After taking into consideration the suggested percentages of what Kent County and New Castle County could pay, Johnson said there's a budget shortfall of $158,000.
Councilman Jeff Flairty said nowhere in the resolution does it state where the funds to operate the library would come from; those amounts would be a result of a long process.
"The town can't afford to buildnd operate a bigger library by itself. We've got to figure out how to involve the other stakeholders," Flairty said. "The town is in the best situation to discuss this with New Castle County and Kent County."
Councilwoman Valerie White pitched in stating the point of the resolution is to give the town a starting point in terms of figuring out the details of the project including how each entity involved would contribute.
Johnson continued stating at some point the town needs to stop and know the numbers before moving on with the project. Mayor Joanne Masten said the other groups involved including the state and county governments have said they want to help but need a commitment from the town. Moreover Masten said from what she's been told the new library wouldn't open on day one costing that much to operate; the library may be 25,000-square feet when it opens but the town would gradually increase to that size which means they would gradually increase the operating budget.
Page 2 of 2 - After council approved the resolution, Brown took a minute to thank the library guild for their hard work over the past few years.
"Now that we're partnering with them on this, I think it's going to happen," Brown said.
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