MINUTES FOR THE SPECIAL MEETING
August 27, 2007
Civic Center Council Chambers
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Morrison called the continued meeting to order at 6:07 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilors Navickas, Silbiger and Jackson were present. Councilor Hartzell arrived at 7:06 p.m. Councilors Chapman and Hardesty were absent.
1. Further Discussion of Library Options
Mayor Morrison asked the City Administrator, Martha Bennett, to summarize the Council’s options for re-opening the library. Ms. Bennett stated the Council needs to address two items concerning this issue. The first being that Staff require direction on what services the library will provide to determine a budget and possible contract with the county. Secondly, in light of the upcoming election, Staff and the public need direction on what the city will do if the library levy passes on September 18, 2007, because the following week the city will be required to certify a tax levy.
Additionally, Ms. Bennett discussed correspondence the city received from the state librarian, Mr. Jim Scheppke. She stated Mr. Scheppke recommended the city use a specific model utilized in
1. Augment County/LSSI Services: An average household in
3. Attempt a Hybrid Option: Although there is significant interest in this option, there are many obstacles to overcome. It may look attractive on paper, but the County will not agree to it because they feel the required terms by
4. State Librarian Proposal: The City of
5. Execute Existing Intergovernmental Agreement: It is questionable if this option is consistent with the current ballot title. The ballot title does not address the required upfront costs if the City were to operate its own library. A significant change in policy would be required because this option does not support the current policy, which is to support and maintain the regional system as much as possible. This option best meets the local determination and fair treatment of employees criteria but does not meet the criteria of providing sufficient service, or providing it quickly.
Comment was made questioning whether or not the City’s living wage ordinance applies if the county hires a contractor and the City engages additional services from that contractor.
Ms. Bennett explained that “living wage” only applies to full-time city employees. She added the City can request that the contractor pay what is consistent with the City’s other contracts.
Mr. Richard Appicello stated if the City were providing funds, these funds would be used to pay living wages. He added if other funds are coming in from the County, the decision is theirs to make.
Comment was made questioning how the City and County employee transfer laws would apply.
Ms. Bennett responded by summarizing a specific
Ms. Bennett added the library would have to be closed for 12-18 months in order for transfer laws not to apply. She stated she had requested a copy of the County’s contract with their employees to verify the exact amount of time the library must be closed, as
Rich Rohde/124 Ohio/Voiced his opposition against the option of contracting out the City’s basic governmental functions. He stated that the City in the past, had reached a consensus that public money should pay living wages and benefits. He stated his understanding of living wages is that it is not just applied to full-time employees. He also noted the living wage ordinance does not support the contracting out of government jobs for the sole purpose of saving money. Mr. Rohde urged the council to consider other options, such as the Hybrid Model, to reopen a fully functioning library system that is accountable and serves the entire community.
Steve Neuberger/784 Ashland Street/Voiced disappointment with the Mayor’s statement that he could live with LSSI for two years. He stated he supports the library levy and would like the library to be open more than 24 hours a week. Additionally, he stated he would like the library to offer a higher level of services and staffing than what the Jackson County Commissioners had previously proposed. Mr. Neuberger added he would like to City to select the Hybrid Option and utilize the Ashland Living Wage Ordinance. He referenced an article, outlining how LSSI works and the negative impact it has on staff, operating hours, and workloads, before stating his opinion that LSSI is an offensive plan. He noted other citizens’ repugnance with privatizing libraries and their desire for a long-term solution, such as the establishment of a library district. He stated the city needs to take action and focus on the issue of reopening the library, as opposed to making profits.
Bill Heinmann/647 Siskiyou/Shared his thoughts on whether or not to support the levy. He noted the current number of increased taxes, and felt the possibility of an additional tax would contribute to already difficult situation for the City and its citizens. Mr. Heinmann suggested the City use funds the County is providing as well as their own funds to augment services. He stated this option would serve as a compromise between the City and the Council and, as an added benefit, there may be funds left over for future budget problems addressing the needs of the entire city.
Wes Brain/298 Garfield Street/Voiced his concern with privatizing the library. He noted
Anne Billeter/4999 Griffin Creek Road, Medford/Suggested the City augment the County’s budget to provide the best possible library service in Ashland, as well as the County. She stated research supports the fact that LSSI is not privatization but rather outsourcing. She added policy-making, on issues such as privacy, would remain with the County. She commented that this option should be regarded as short term, as the main priority is the reopen the library as quickly as possible. She added solutions for long term county funding would be addressed later.
Councilor Hartzell arrived at 7:06 p.m.
Mayor Morrison noted the purpose of the current meeting was to eliminate any existing confusion among
Marilee Jenkinson/2200 Ashland Street/ Voiced her hopes that, no matter what options the City and/or County choose, the local children are not let down and are provided with an open library.
Mayor stated the Council will accept a short-term solution to reopen the libraries for now, but they will not stop working towards a long-term solution that will meet the needs of community. He added the Council is very aware of the issues presented and that decisions may need to be made that not everyone will support.
Ms. Bennett stated that although the Hybrid Solution seems to meet the needs of everyone, without the County’s approval it may not be an option. She also stated the “go-it-alone” option might be difficult to carry out as well. She added this option would most likely require a new ballot, as the current ballot title language does not cater to this option. Under this option, she commented the City could approach the County about purchasing their collection, as it may be cheaper to do so rather than building a collection.
Comment was made requesting clarification on whether or not, under the Hybrid Option, there are other variables that could be negotiated with the County that have to do with governance.
Ms. Bennett responded that if not for the public employee transfer issues, the Hybrid would be a lot easier to accomplish. She suggested the City contract through the County’s vendor to ensure local involvement in material selection and information dispersal. She added quality of service is an important issue to address as well. She stated the City would need a citizen body to give feedback to the County in order to adjust services in case of problems that may arise and that would be difficult to make
Ms. Bennett explained that if the library is to be reopened by November 1, 2007, the City needs to address these issues now. She further clarified that the transfer law only applies to the transfer of employees from one public employer to another. She stated transfer laws do not apply to the County because LSSI is a private company.
Councilor Navickas commented he is strongly opposed to privatization and outsourcing. He stated the City needs to keep all of their options open and consider the “go-it-alone” alternative. He suggested the City send the County a letter stating they are taking control of the building. He added the City could then begin negotiations around a possible hybrid agreement.
Councilor Hartzell stated that the Council needs to consider all aspects of privatization and be grounded in the information provided.
Councilor Silbiger voiced his support for the ballot measure to re-open the library. He noted the County is not willing to provide additional funding other than what is outlined in their proposal. He stated the purpose of the current meeting is to give the public a clear idea on the direction the Council is taking concerning the library issue. He voiced his unhappiness with outsourcing, but noted the situation is temporary.
Mr. Appicello clarified that the City has an existing Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the County until they choose replace it. He added changes could be made through negotiations.
Councilor Hartzell stated conducting library operations is different than capitalizing library operations. She stated funds could be used to buy the things the County takes back. She voiced her concern that this is not a short-term solution and noted the importance of ensuring any decisions made are temporary.
Councilor Navickas also voiced his concern that whatever short term option the City chooses will not remain short term.
Comment was made that it is important for the City to send a clear signal to the voters on the direction the City is taking to open the library as soon as possible.
Mayor Morrison reminded the council that the most important issue at hand is to reopen the library and that there should be no confusion on the library issue. He voiced his support on augmenting the proposed library services and supporting the library levy in order to accomplish this. He stated the City needs to determine the level of service, ensure fair compensation and negotiate with the County for a long-term solution that provides a public library system in
Councilor Jackson proposed several items for negotiation with the County such as; hours of operation, children’s programs, a combination of the living wage, professional staff, privacy issues and a means for accessing quality of service with the ability to revisit the contract.
Ms. Bennett stated that meeting minimum requirements in the ballot measure would be negotiated with the County.
Ms. Billeter commented that the only difference between the proposal LSSI previously submitted and the revised proposal is the reduction of hours. She noted the City should not need to supplement the book budget.
Ms. Bennett noted questions/issues she had previously asked the County to address and stated she did not yet have any details on them.
County Commissioner Dave Gilmour was present and shared with the council that there is no question that County funding is restricted, and the City cannot rely on the Federal Government in the future for this funding. He voiced his disappointment in the failure of the ballots in the May election. He noted the number of communities that are suffering due to property taxes. He commented that a 15-library system makes sense, despite the fact that a majority of citizens in the County are against the idea. He explained that staff is leaving to pursue jobs elsewhere, and something needs to done quickly before they are all gone. He has read the information on LSSI and noted that oversight is important. He suggested that anyone concerned about LSSI should speak with the Library Advisory Committee so that the committee can take into account these concerns while going over the contract. He commented there is a good chance the libraries will be open possibly earlier that November and voiced his hope that communities will come forward to augment services. He suggested operating as a separate district, but noted taxes will have to be lowered to accomplish this. He stated the City’s focus should be to supplement, as the County will not be able to provide full services.
Mr. Gilmour responded to questions in regards to the willingness of the Commissioners to negotiate a contract with liberal escape clauses that this information will have to be negotiated in the initial contract, and it is not clear how willing
Ms. Billeter provided the names of all the members sitting on the Advisory Committee, and noted citizens can call the Library Business Office to request the e-mail addresses of these members.
Jackson/Silbiger m/s that the council support the local option levy in order to keep options open, that the City Administrator continue to negotiate with county staff toward augmentation of a contract being discussed with the county and that the city will not levy anymore than necessary.
DISCUSSON: Councilor Navickas stated he is not convinced the City can legally use the levy to augment the County system, and he does not think the City can provide the services they want through LSSI.
Councilor Hartzell stated the City is not giving voters a clear sense of how much of the levy they would use, as well as the services they would provide.
Councilor Silbiger agreed and stated that the City should clarify the amount of the levy to be used
Ms. Bennett explained that the council could determine how much of the levy should be used but that it depends on what services the City wants to buy. Mr. Appicello clarified that the County has an obligation to provide free library to citizens when the County uses a private corporation and that the language in the
Councilor Navickas voiced his opposition to limiting the levy to a specific amount, stating it will appear hollow to the voters and eventually the City will end up changing the levy anyway.
Councilor Hartzell commented that the ballot language prohibits the City from using the levy for anything other than library services. She stated it would be difficult to negotiate some programs because they are open-ended. She suggested allocating funds to hire an individual to track and monitor the effects of the contract and would like the City to have maximum flexibility for future options. She suggested exploring local donations, which will become
Roll Call Vote: Councilors
Staff will continue to bring back reports to the Council as new information is received and the issue will be added to the upcoming executive session agenda.
Meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder
John W. Morrison, Mayor