Straight talk and hard budget figures dominated the discussion between county, city and library representatives at a special meeting last Thursday.
The Jan. 10 gathering was called by Price Councilmember Kathy Hanna-Smith after a proposal for a new interlocal agreement for the library met with resistance from the Carbon commissioners at the county's Dec. 12 meeting.
The presentation by Brent Cammans, director of community services, called for raising the cost of providing library cards to non-Price residents from $15 to $60.
"I was kind of taken aback by this proposal," pointed out Commissioner Mike Milovich at the Dec. 12 meeting and again at last week's special gathering.
The agreement was revisited in detail Thursday by Carbon Commissioners Bill Krompel, Milovich and Steven Burge, Price Mayor Joe Piccolo, Hanna-Smith, librarian Norma Procarione and members of the library advisory board.
Before the agreement was addressed, Milovich gave a presentation on how much financial support Carbon County provides to Price city on an ongoing basis.
Milovich contended at the Dec. 12 meeting that it was inappropriate to separate the library monies from the overall funding picture.
"This is about the partnering we have been doing over the last few years," said Milovich. "One of the most glaring examples is the senior center where at least 60 percent of those served are Price residents."
Armed with a breakdown of county contributions, Milovich said the nutrition expenses at the senior center add up to more than $638,000 annually which more than $400,000 comes from Carbon County versus $3,000 from Price City.
The comparison of county versus Price city contributions for a variety of services also included the animal shelter, public safety dispatch, drug court and the jail.
As an example, Milovich pointed out that approximately 62 percent of the calls received at the county dispatch center come from Price residents and the city pays $46,400 toward the overall cost of $730,000.
Milovich estimated that, if the city paid for all of its services, the total would come to more than $220,000 annually.
Piccolo acknowledged how much the county does for the city on a regular basis and called for an easing of tension.
The Price mayor pointed out the importance of unity in the local community.
Cammans assured the county commissioners that it was never the intention of the library board to cause dissension.
"We didn't bring this (the interlocal agreement) to your attention to aggravate or intimidate anyone," said Cammans. "It's just in the past three or four years we have had to cut into the meat of the library services because of rising costs."
Krompel acknowledged that he and the county commissioners understand how tight budgets are becoming.
"We hear you when you say there's been inflation," said Krompel.
The commissioner went on to clarify the financial situation currently facing the county.
"This year, we had a $2 million deficit," said Krompel, explaining that county has taken a big hit in not receiving exchange land monies.
According to Krompel, the county was supposed to be getting $800,000 a quarter from the exchange land funds, which added up to $3.2 million a year.
But the commissioner indicated that money is not coming into the county.
"If we have to cut $3 million from our budget, we are going to have to cut services," said Krompel.
With the county's financial constraints laid clearly on the table, Hanna-Smith brought the discussion back to the library's situation
"That's great information," said the Price councilmember. "But let's get back to this agreement. Do you want to back to the original?"
A broader and more general exploration of the Price library's future ensued before the final decision on the agreement was reached.
A member of the audience at the special meeting, Helper Councilmember Dean Armstrong said his city is interested in being part of the overall discussion about the library. The Helper official broached the subject of working toward a county-wide system.
"We would like you to think of us (Helper's library) as an extension of Price's library, " said Armstrong.
Following the Helper councilmember's comments, Piccolo raised the idea of re-opening the discussion about a library service district.
"A special service district comprises itself of who will benefit," said the Price mayor.
Milovich said a service district which would collect fees from all residents in the areas located within its boundaries.
The idea of the district garnered the support of the majority of officials seated at the table and appeared to be an item that would be tackled soon under the auspices of the library advisory board.
As for immediate fixes, Burge suggested that the county would likely be interested in providing financial support for individual programs and effort.
And Carbon's clerk-auditor, Robert Pero, said the Price library could receive the $5,000 from the county in one lump sum instead of the money being doled out during the year when non-Price residents apply for library cards.
Pero's suggestion was approved.
Procarione said Carbon residents could come to the Price library for cards instead of having to apply at the county offices.