Library seeks funding boost

MANCHESTER - Officials of the Mark Skinner Library - soon to become known as the Manchester Community Library when it moves to its new building next year that is under construction on Cemetery Avenue - are seeking an increase of $44,800 in public support for their operating budget for the coming year.

This would be in addition to the $153,200 the library currently receives annually from the town to help finance their day-to-day operations. That level of public funding has remained unchanged for the past four years.

The request was made during Tuesday night's select board meeting during a presentation by Linda McKeever, the library's board president.

"The current contribution of our town is 44 percent of our operating budget," she said. "The money that we are asking for is earmarked for basically staff. Because of our new location we will really need to be operating at six days a week."

The $44,800 increase will add approximately $13 to a Manchester resident's median home owner's tax bill. Currently, non-residents pay a fee of $35 for a single person or $65 for a family to use the library's services. McKeever said the library board may raise that fee to help offset other costs.

This increase will only be used for operational expenses, she said. The library board is in the process of raising a total of $6.6 million in private funds for the new building. That sum includes construction costs, land acquisition, furnishings and equipment and a boost to the library's endowment fund. The board has also set a goal of doubling the library's endowment as part of the building process, as well as looking for more corporate sponsors for events like First Wednesdays, she added.

"This board is constantly looking for ways to creatively fund the library," she said.

McKeever said the money the library is asking for will be used for essential services, like funding a full-time children's librarian and a part-time digital librarian. Some of the services the new library will offer are touch down work stations, where entrepreneurs can rent as a work space and community meeting rooms. The new building will be handicap-accessible and completely compliant with the American Disabilities Act, which the current building is not, she said. The Manchester Historical Society and Vermont Reading Partners will have permanent space in the library.

One of the best new additions for Manchester is a designated space for young adults.

"There is going to be amazing young adult loft area, that is totally dedicated to the young people," she said. "It will be their space and when school is not in session or after school, it is a safe space for them to go."

All ages of children will have activities, spaces and services available to them, she said.

John O'Keefe, the town manager, said on Wednesday after the meeting, that as the person responsible for creating the budget, the amount the library requested will make creating the budget extremely challenging.

"We have had meetings in the past and we were assuming costs would increase," he said. "It is certainly larger than any increase in any municipal department, at least since I've been here. It was a bad budget to start with but now it's just gotten worse."

During the meeting, the select board expressed some concerns about the additional funds the library was requesting following McKeever's presentation. Select board chairman Ivan Beattie wanted to know more about potential revenue the library may have. McKeever said the potential for revenue is there, however, the library board has been conservative in their estimates. The new library will offer an event space with the capacity for 150 people, complete with an outside terrace, that could potentially host a small wedding.

On Wednesday after the meeting, Beattie said he was disappointed the library's request came in so high.

"It is a very high number for non-municipal spending," he said. "Let's put it this way, the fire department costs about $150,000 and the library wants nearly $200,000. Personally, I have a tough time accepting that number."

Select board member Lisa Souls said she is confronted daily with the challenge many people face by the cost of not just living in Manchester, but Vermont in general. She said that this building and the library are great, but she does not see how the Town could give any more money.

McKeever said that there is a tax impact for the library, but that there is a social impact as well.

"The state of Vermont has no problem saying to people who don't have much money that you have to apply for everything online. There is nothing you can do in Vermont anymore, including applying for unemployment, that is not computer-based," she said. "And what does somebody who is a low income person in Manchester, where do they go to apply? They come to the library and they come in droves to the library."

The new building will be called the Manchester Community Library, but will pay homage to the current space and namesake with the Mark Skinner Reading Room.

After spending nearly an hour discussing the library, the board announced the formal appointment of the town's new zoning administrator and planning director.

Allison Stori Hopkins, who is currently Regional Planner with The Northwest Regional Planning Commission will start Dec. 9. Beattie said the list of candidates for the position was very talented.

"In the course of the interviews we found out she grew up in Landgrove and spent a lot of time in Manchester," he said. "We were very impressed with her poise and composure- she really handled the challenging questions-and her extensive knowledge of planning and zoning."

Hopkins said in a phone interview on Wednesday that she is excited to join the Manchester community.

"[I am excited for] The ability to work with a community that has shown a really strong history of planning and shares some of the same planning principles I do," she said.

Finally, the select board heard from Manchester Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Berta Maginniss. Manchester Merriment, the seasonal events going on all around town through the New Year, has been named a Vermont Top Ten Winter Event, she said. November 30 will kick off the season with the Tree Lighting at the Park House, as opposed to the Town Green where it has been held in the past, at 5:30 p.m. The main event of Manchester Merriment will be the tractor parade, starting at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 7.

"Santa will be in the tractor parade on his very own float and with a little luck, Ivan [Beattie] will be on his very own tractor," she said. "We will have 11 non-profit floats that will be in our parade this year."


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