Facing confusion and concern regarding a cost-cutting proposal to close the Fallston branch of the Harford County Public Library, the Harford County Council issued a resolution Tuesday night urging all library branches to remain open and requesting the County Executive David Craig transfer money in the budget to save the Fallston branch.
In a letter Tuesday to members of the Fallston Community Council and other constituents, Harford County Councilman Joseph Woods explained it was not the County Council’s decision to close the Fallston, or any other branch, of the library.
“I was as surprised as everyone else to find this was happening,” he wrote.
Woods also posed a slew of intriguing questions that he suggests citizens should ask during Thursday’s public hearing on the branch closure, which begins at 6:00 p.m. in the Bel Air Branch.
Woods ponders why the county is proceeding with construction of a new library in Churchville if there isn’t enough money to keep the ones we already have opened; what the benefit of closing the Fallston library will be if they are going to be re-locating the existing employees and just closing the building; what will happen to the vacant unmaintained building; what political reasons might be behind closing the Fallston branch; and are they closing the Fallston branch because they think the community will bail it out?
Here is the Woods’ letter:
I would like to thank you for contacting me about the Fallston Library issue. It is true that the County Council approved an additional 5% cut in to the 2010 budget with the exception of emergency services. This was an effort to lower County taxes and slow down county spending. Once the County Council approves the budget the County Executive’s Office makes the decision of what to do with the approved funds and may make adjustments as needed with the total amount given.
I believe it is very important for the community to understand that a decision to close the Fallston Branch is being made by the Executive Committee of the Harford County Library Board. It is not the authority or decision of the County Council to close or stop any county services. The Executive Committee of the Harford County Library Board feels that closing a branch is the only way to balance their budget. I do not know when they made this decision or when they selected the Fallston Branch to close. As of the morning of Friday, June 12th, the County Council was not aware that the Fallston Branch or any other Branch was being considered to be shut down. I was as surprised as everyone else to find this was happening. As soon as I received this information in an email from the Director of the Executive Committee of the Harford County Library Board I started contacting other Council Members to help us with this problem. Council Members Mary Ann Lisanti, Chad Shrodes and I met with Audra Caplan (Director) and Lucie Snodgrass (in-coming Director) of the Harford County Public Library on Friday to discuss the Fallston Branch issue. We asked them many of the same questions that I have been asked, such as how much money does the Harford County Library board need to keep Fallston open? The answer was $400,000.00. Out of a $15,000,000.00 plus budget for 11 branches and 1 administrative office they need $400,000.00 to keep Fallston open. We also asked why the Executive Committee of the Harford County Library board selected the Fallston Branch.
*Age of Building
*Branch is not easily accessible on foot
*Low walk-in traffic
*Poor location and dangerous vehicle access in and out of the property
*Close proximity to newest branches, Bel Air (7 miles), Jarrettsville (8 miles) and Abingdon (9miles),
*Low percentage of computer usage compared to other branch locations
The Harford County Library board will hold a Public Hearing on the Fallston Branch closing before their board meeting at 6:00 pm on June 18, 2009 at the Bel Air Branch, 3rd floor meeting room. I urge every citizen to attend this hearing and ask questions and express your concerns to the Library Board Members. Tell them not to close our Library and don’t close any others.
Some of the questions that I have received that the citizens attending the
public hearing should ask are
· Why are they continuing to build the new library in Churchville if there isn’t enough money to keep the ones we already have opened?
· What is the benefit of closing this library if they are going to be re-locating the existing employees and just closing the building?
· Why didn’t they base the closure of this library on usage vs. the assumption that the Fallston Community can afford to drive further.
· Did they consider alternating the days a library is open throughout the county or reducing hours?
· What will happen to the vacant unmaintained building?
· What other political reasons are there for closing the Fallston Branch?
· Are they closing the Fallston Branch because they think the community will bail it out?
Thank you for taking the time to share how important the library is to all of us. I agree that this is an important issue and that no community should have to worry about losing their library. If the Library Board decides to close the Fallston Branch, the Council and I will do everything we can to get it re-opened.
I also recommend that all members of our Community attend the regular Fallston Community Council Meetings. This group is made up of members of our community and meets regularly at the Fallston Volunteer Fire Company on Carrs Mill Road. They discuss issues like this and work on solutions to propose
to the County Executive. The next Fallston Community Council Meeting is June 23, 2009 at 6:30 pm 2201 Carrs Mill Road.
Joseph M. Woods