Weddington follows Waxhaw, opts out of immediate library consideration
Within the span of two weeks, both frontrunners for a Western Union County library expansion pushed back discussions until 2011.
At the beginning of last week, Weddington and Waxhaw were jockeying for position to have their town’s site selected for a library expansion. Waxhaw backed out of the library discussion, with Weddington now following suit a few days later.
Oct. 12, The Waxhaw Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to table the library debate until April 2011, citing a lack of urgency as well as a fear of setting a precedent for municipalities paying for formerly county-funded programs. Following Waxhaw’s decision, the Weddington Town Council cancelled plans for an Oct. 19 closed session meeting with the library board followed by an open meeting immediately after.
“When Waxhaw backed off, some of our members who had attached a sense of urgency to the project reconsidered,” Weddington Mayor Nancy Anderson said. “We have many options that deserve to be properly vetted.”
According to Anderson, several private landowners have approached the town council about a public/private joint venture. “We have at least five options that I know of in the Providence Road corridor,” Anderson said. “That’s before even approaching the public.”
While past surveys of Union County residents indicate a clear need for a library expansion, the question of where it should be located depends on whom you ask. Coupled with a lack of funding at the county level, towns had hoped to negotiate by offering funds of their own in exchange for a building in their corporate limits.
Before the recession, developers recognized the attraction of a library, Anderson said.. “We were getting requests and offers from builders and developers who wanted to build the library on their land.”
In addition, the harsh reality is that at this point there is not enough money at present to fund such a project, Anderson noted. This does not mean, however, that planning is not important for when and if monies become available.
Getting the Public Involved
“We need to get the library board and the public involved,” Anderson said, “and this will take time.” She anticipates at least two public meetings to commence around the first of next year. Going forward, Anderson noted the public’s involvement would revolve around selecting a site to present to the library board, while acknowledging that contract negotiations would be in a private forum.
Anderson anticipates active public participation, given that in recent years town residents raised and earmarked $200,000 in private funds for a future library. That money is still sitting in the bank.
Pay to Play?
Across the county towns have had to adjust to the recession-influenced reality of paying for services funded in the past by the county. Weddington Town Council District I member Werner Thomisser summarized this state of affairs at last week’s town council meeting. When it comes to paying for projects, “federal pushes to the states, the states push to the counties, and the counties push it down to the municipalities,” he said.
Anderson added a caveat this week. “Now that municipalities have to pay, let’s hope they solicit funds from all the towns that would benefit.” She noted that citizens of Indian Trail, Marshville and Monroe would likely benefit from a future western county library along with those of Weddington.
The delay in moving forward with a presentation doesn’t mean Weddington is giving up, Thomisser said, just looking at all options before spending any money.
“We will continue to pursue the effort and hopefully we can bring a library to western Union County,” Thomisser said.
County moves forward with strategic plan
As towns delay approving proposals for a future library site, the county moved forward Oct. 18 with a project to define the scope of services that will be offered. Union County got a grant from the North Carolina State Library to fund a strategic planning process for its library system, which is on target to be completed by April 2011.
A Steering Committee will help create a citizen survey and establish goals for the next few years. The committee will consist of the current library board, along with Friends of the Library President Anne Stewart, Chamber of Commerce Board Chairperson Pat Kahle, Partnership for Progress Director Maurice Ewing, Employment Security Commission Manager Judy Carpenter, Teen Advisory Board members Marissa Grisham and Shawn Linnen, African American Community representative Phillip Bazemore, one current county commissioner, one incoming county commissioner and representatives from the towns of Waxhaw and Weddington.