Twiggs County library reopens, but board wonders for how long

alopez@macon.comNovember 22, 2013 

Twiggs County Commission Chairman Ken Fowler, left, and Commissioner William Bond review Twiggs County library invoices during a budget meeting Friday morning.

The Twiggs County public library reopened Friday afternoon, but it will need more money soon to stay open past New Year’s Day.

Library officials learned Friday that they would receive $5,000 from the Twiggs County school board, and that infusion was instrumental in the 1:30 p.m. opening.

The new library had been closed since Tuesday during a fight over funding.

The library’s board of trustees voted shortly after noon to reopen. They also voted to reinstate Earl Dennard, who was on sick leave, as the board chairman.

The vote took place in a small kitchen inside City Hall. Twiggs county commissioners had just finished discussing the library closing at a budget hearing that started at 10 a.m. inside the commission chambers.

Though the discussion lasted almost two hours, the commissioners systematically broke down most of the library’s financial situation, reviewing invoices and bank statements.

Commissioner Tommie Lee Bryant said he received a call from the school board superintendent that the library had a $5,000 check waiting for it. The money came from the school board’s scheduled contribution from July 2012 to June 2013. Library trustees were not aware that money was available until commissioners brought it up.

All five members of the library board were present at Friday’s county commission budget meeting. Two of them stood in front of the commission and answered financial questions.

The county’s new library was built using a $1.15 million state grant and a $600,000 insurance payment from the loss of the previous library building in a fire. It opened earlier this month.

Thomas Jones, director of the Middle Georgia Regional Library, who helped oversee the state funding of the Twiggs County library construction, provided a summary of funds in the construction bank account. After outstanding debts are paid, he said, the library will have about $19,000 left over.

Jones told the commissioners, however, that he would feel uncomfortable using that money for anything other than paying for the completed construction.

‘We didn’t close the library’

Commissioners Donald Watson, Bryant and William Bond dominated the library discussion at the budget meeting.

They questioned why the library board of trustees voted to close it before consulting with the commission.

Bryant noted that previous commissioners had approved the county’s contribution to the library for 2013, not the current five-member board.

“We’re getting a lot of bad press for something we didn’t do,” Watson said.

A woman sitting in the audience questioned the commission’s decision not to vote to provide the library money right away.

“The money is here!” Bond said, slamming his fists on the table.

Bond told the woman the commission had successfully debunked the idea that the library has no money. If they need more to operate for the rest of the year, he said, the commission would have to advertise and hold a public hearing before making that decision.

“That’s the law,” Bryant said. “We can’t jump up and give you money because you come here. We have to do it by law.”

“We’re going to fund everything once we get the accurate figures,” Bond said. “We will always fund the library.”

Dennard said he will try to work with the commission to make sure the library stays funded.

“We have to maintain open lines of communication,” he said.

The library board also voted Friday to submit invoices for operating costs through October that have not been paid yet.

The $5,000 may be enough to operate the library until Jan. 1, but only if the county commission pays for salaries, rent and water for September and October, Dennard said.

The Twiggs County Commission will meet Monday at 9 a.m. for another budget meeting. Commissioners plan to work on the 2014 county budget, but they will have to discuss the library’s unpaid invoices.

The payments are not a formality, Commissioner Donald Floyd said.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 478-744-4382

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