SPB council not ready to sign 15-year library contract
In spite of its acceptance in the seven other Bruce County municipalities, the Town of South Bruce Peninsula council is reluctant to sign a 15-year contract with Bruce County ‘as is.’
Council learned at its Oct. 3 meeting in Wiarton that staff had received a contract from the county regarding leasing the town’s two buildings which house Bruce County library branches in Sauble Beach and Wiarton.
Staff was asked to present the contract to the town for signing.
“I think we owe it to our community to sit down and make sure a contract is agreed upon that protects the community and benefits the community at the same time,” Janice Jackson, Mayor for the town said in an interview.
Previously, the libraries have been run by verbal agreement only. A number of suggestions were made by the town’s clerk for council to consider before entering into the long-term agreement.
Clarifying the square footage for the Wiarton branch library use was one suggestion Angie Cathrae, manager of legislative services and clerk for the town, had in regard to the contract.
The county’s proposed rate of $7.32 per sq/ft would mean a rate of $21,960 for use of the Wiarton library space in 2018 – the same amount as 2017 – but this would not include any square footage for the lobby, washrooms and boardroom, Cathrae said in her report to council.
To date, janitorial services, snow removal, exterior and interior maintenance, grass cutting, gas and hydro costs at the two library branches have all been provided by the town.
“If you pay for the utilities then that utility has to be recovered through the rent. And that’s not so here. Simple as that,” Councillor Ana Vukovic said.
“I support the library – but at least pay your way.”
Historically, the library has not paid the town’s hourly rental fee of $22.44 for leasing the boardroom at the Ross Whicher Centre, where the library is housed. This year to date, the library has used the boardroom for 295 (scheduled) hours, Cathrae said.
“Definitely the community room here at the Ross Whicher Centre should be rented by the library when they want it. That’s outside the library,” Deputy Mayor Jay Kirkland said in council’s discussion.
Kirkland, Vukovic and Mayor Jackson, who were the only council members at the meeting, agreed council needs to know the actual operational costs of the facility before making a decision and staff was asked to report on these costs for both branches.
Kirkland said council needs to know the costs so they can take that into consideration during this year’s budget talks.
The town tries to get all its services at the “best cost,” Kirkland said, adding “I still believe we need the services of the libraries within South Bruce Peninsula.”
Jackson and Vukovic both wanted to ensure running the libraries was revenue neutral.
“Our libraries are a vital service for our community however it’s important that the county pays enough to the municipality to at least cover the operating costs,” Jackson said in an email.
She said libraries are a county responsibility “which we already pay for through the nearly 7 million we pay annually in county taxes. We don’t want to sacrifice any town services in order to pay a shortfall because the new contract doesn’t provide sufficient financial coverage.”
The county proposed an annual two per cent increase in its 15-year contract.
Coun. Vukovic suggested shortening the contract to a five-year term.
If after council has expressed its concerns an agreement cannot be reached, “we’ll have to cross that bridge when it comes,” Jackson said.
Bruce County Public Library, Wiarton branch.