County undecided about funding Rimbey library and racetrack

Further decisions among Ponoka County councillors on funding Rimbey’s Municipal Library have been shelved for a later date.

Further decisions among Ponoka County councillors on funding Rimbey’s Municipal Library have been shelved for a later date.

County council has approved its 2013 budget but has not decided whether to fund Rimbey’s library and racetrack projects.

At the March 12 meeting, Rimbey library manager Jean Keetch made a presentation to council requesting $275,000 for the library’s expansion.

“We have been short of space for some time,” said Keetch. “The biggest concern for me as a manager is safety.

She says last summer 165 children came to the library for the summer reading program and that the library is lacking shelf space, mobility space for those with walkers or wheelchairs, and it’s too noisy.

The Rimbey Municipal Library also doesn’t meet power resources supply standards due to the lack of space.

“Library standards now say that 45 per cent of all soft seating should contain access to power. Zero per cent of our soft seating contains access to power, so we have extension cords running around on the floor. As a library manager that terrifies me,” said Keetch. She also told council if the situation continues without action she could be considered criminally negligent.

Each year the county provides the library with $150,000 and council wants to make clear that should they decide not to provide expansion funding it isn’t due to lack of generosity or support for what each councillor feels is a wonderful asset to Rimbey — with exceptional funding.

“I think we have shown some generosity and support,” said Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth.

One of the reasons council decided to delay their decision is because the library’s expansion and the sale of the Rimbey Town Office for $1 created a division situation within the town that has not yet been settled.

Last year the town decided to sell their portion of the building to the library board for $1 and relocate the town office to the Provincial Building at the west end of town.

This action created a flood of letter to the editors in the Rimbey Review with two main positions; some people are for the action and feel the library’s expansion is a benefit to the town.

Others are against the action because the town office would no longer be centrally located.

The situation became even more heated and took a political turn when MLA Joe Anglin also began writing letters against the action.

Town resident Reuben Giebelhaus began a petition that gained several hundred signatures. The petition is calling for the sale of the building to be delayed and a referendum held.

“The town’s intention was to get us a bigger space,” said Keetch.

According to Keetch there are three empty buildings in Rimbey the library could have moved to. Two don’t come close to meeting the space requirements, and while the Co-op Mall came closest but it would have cost $60,000 annually, which was too costly an option.

If the library moved to another location Keetch says it will cost approximately $36,000 just to move the Internet (Supernet) connection to meet library needs.

The town initially wanted to sell its half the building to the library board because of leasing liabilities, said Keetch. However, now it is unknown if the library will buy the building or lease it from the town.

Rimbey-area Coun. Keith Beebe wanted to know why the library couldn’t hold its programs in the upper auditorium of Rimbey’s Community Centre, which he says is used approximately eight hours per week.

However, Keetch says she would need to double her staff and that her programs need books. “The reason we have programs in the library is not to give kids something to do . . . The reason we have programming in the library is to support literacy.”

Cutforth says most libraries in rural towns are pressed for space and Rimbey’s library isn’t unique in that sense. He also acknowledged the county has been generous in their contributions to other recreational projects and organizations. However, he added the county was made aware of those requests two to three years in advance.

This year the county has delegated $1.2 million in capital contribution requests within the county.

Council feels not every want and need can be financially supported on demand. “Our money is tight this year, it’s going to be hard to come by,” said Coun. Gawney Hinkley.

“I’m sorry but I do believe we have come past the stage of want and have come to the stage of need,” said Keetch.

Racetrack decision idling

Council discussed the idea of holding a special meeting to further explore the idea of supporting the library and the racetrack, and if they decide to give support, to what extent.

Coun. McLauchlin said council needs to make it clear they support the idea of both projects but they need more details on the raceway the library’s expansion, and how both requests could affect county finances.

“You don’t want to fund one at the cost of another,” he added.

Coun. George Verheire said if the county provides additional support to the Rimbey Municipal Library it could also be expected to donate to Ponoka’s Jubilee Library.

“I think it needs to be made clear to the public, the county’s commitment for the community component of that MSI grant has been fulfilled now for the entire length of the program,” said Cutforth. The county is not required to use any more of that funding for anything besides municipal projects.

Cutforth recommended the approval of the budget but “the actual contributions to those who aren’t specifically already approved be withheld until they come back, we need more information. But the budget itself, these numbers won’t change.”

Clarification

In the March 19 issue of the Ponoka News the page 1 story County undecided about funding Rimbey library and racetrack stated the library receives $150,000 from Ponoka County annually.

In fact, the county donates approximately $135,000 in total to libraries: $36,000 is to Rimbey’s library and $65,000 is donated to Parkland Regional Libraries. Making up the difference is a resident grant paid by the county for being members of Parkland.

We apologize for the confusion.