Jeffco commissioners unhappy with Library Board decision

JEFFERSON COUNTY – The Board of County Commissioners Tuesday criticized the County Library Board of Trustees’ decision to close libraries on Mondays, a budget-related move announced just a day earlier.

Commissioners also appointed three library board members, two of them from Lakewood, during Tuesday’s meeting. A statement released by the three commissioners said the new library board members were chosen for “their financial and business acumen”, but did not directly link the appointments to the library system’s announcement of the Monday closures.

In addition to putting the system’s 10 libraries and the Library Call center on a six-day-a-week schedule, community libraries in Edgewater, Wheat Ridge and Conifer will reduce the hours they are open. The Traveling Children’s Library will not be affected by the cutbacks.

“The changes are part of a response to significant budget challenges facing the system,” according to a press release issued by the library system.

“The decision to close our libraries on Mondays was not something taken lightly,” said Jeffco Library Executive Director Marcellus Turner. “We are facing a perfect storm of budget challenges requiring us to reduce the operating budget by $3 million over the next two years. The Monday closure will allow us to begin to bring our expenses in line with projected revenues and ensure the future success and sustainability of JCPL.”

But County Commissioners took issue with the move, approving a joint statement authored by Commissioner Kevin McCasky.

“We are disheartened that there have been several fundamental philosophical differences between the Board of County Commissioners and the Library Board of Trustees regarding the Library’s budget and operations, McCasky said. “Most recent disagreements concerned the Library Board’s intent to close libraries on Mondays, a service reduction that this board has publicly stated it adamantly opposes. The Commissioners did everything within our power to prevent this from occurring.”

The library’s press release said the system believes the effect of the closures will be lessened by 24/7 access to its online library site and maintaining full access to book drops at its facilities.

As part of the commissioners’ joint statement, they thanked the Library Board members for their service.

“We thank the appointees on the Library Board who have contributed many hours of service and sincerely believe their actions have been in the best interest of the library. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their work that has contributed to our outstanding library system.”

The new board members appointed by commissioners Tuesday are Buddy Douglass and Ray Elliott of Lakewood and outgoing County Commissioner Kathy Hartman, a south Jeffco resident.

Douglass, is president of FirstBank of Lakewood and treasurer of the Jefferson Economic Council. He also is the treasurer of the Jefferson County Library Foundation Board of Directors.

Elliott, chief financial officer of Controlled Products System Group, Inc., is a former Lakewood City Council member and served on the Jefferson County Citizen Budget Review panel. He is a certified public accountant with 20 years of management and financial experience.

Hartman is the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners and is a board member of the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the Jefferson Center for Mental Health. She is a former executive director of a non-profit agency and a former stockbroker.

They were chosen from 14 applicants for the Library Board.

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