PROPS & DISSES: Library’s appetite for construction causes indigestion

By on August 6, 2013

JACKSON HOLE, WYO -

Costs too much to keep the lights on at TCL.

Costs too much to keep the lights on at TCL.

Library’s appetite for construction causes indigestion

Look, I like the library. I wrote a big story about it back in May. But this idea that library administrators feel they aren’t being funded enough to continue normal operating hours is unacceptable. They should have seen this coming five years ago.

In 2008, library heads lobbied for and received $1.5 million for architectural design fees attached to a proposed expansion. Then-commissioner Andy Schwartz urged the library to back off in deference to the county’s pipedream of a massive justice center that never materialized. Two years later, with the local economy fully in the crapper, the library scored another $9.24 million for construction of a new wing that would essentially double the size of its operation.

Some county commissioners, and others, warned library officials to acknowledge the additional operating expenses that would come with the expansion. The library seemed to be suffering from the same malady affecting Pathways: Build, build, build – worry later about how you will maintain, maintain, maintain. Library director Deb Adams said staff would remain the same and the only anticipated increased costs would be related to HVAC type stuff.

The library cut back operating hours in February 2010 after a countywide hiring freeze went into effect. A few months ago, library officials warned commissioners that they might have to do something drastic if they didn’t get an additional half-million bucks. They held a possible Wednesday closure over the heads of the commissioners, who blinked with one eye, and coughed up half that. Adams has since announced the closure is off the table.

The library gets a healthy mill levy, traditionally in excess of $2.5 million a year. To threaten a further reduction in hours to the tune of shutting down completely for a weekday is unacceptable. The library needs to live within their means like any other business or organization. Well, federal government excluded.

 Alliance study confirms ‘No Vacancy’

The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance did the head count and the results were surprising. No, not really.

Summer population swells here, we know that, but to attach a figure to the increase is both illuminating and useful.

The Alliance study shows the county’s population nearly triples on a typical summer day, from the 2010 Census figure of 21,294 to a little more than 60,000. It’s something we all could have surmised, but to have quantifiable data now provides town and county officials with helpful concrete criteria they’ll need to craft future policy.

Summer throngs strain infrastructure. The valley is not built to support these numbers and we aren’t just talking about a few select peak weeks around the Fourth of July. Population increase is being realized in assumed shoulder months like April and November.

Good on the Alliance for the research, which was conducted as a required element of the Comp Plan process.

 New BTNF super makes stand

I haven’t yet had the occasion to meet new Bridger-Teton forest supervisor Clinton Kyhl, but already I like what I see. Former super Jacque Buchanan did a pretty good job while in Jackson, but whenever the subject of moving the SO’s offices came up she never seemed to have her employees’ backs.

When I interviewed her about it, she acted the pawn in the grand scheme of things, resolved to make the best of whatever “regional” decided. She eventually proposed relocating a third of the Jackson workforce to Alpine as a Plan B. I was under the impression that there were more than a few FS employees that would enjoy being able to work in the community they live in.

Wrong. It turns out only one BTNF employee currently lives in Star Valley and commutes. One.

At least Kyhl is willing to state his opinion to higher-ups. After just a few days on the job, Kyhl’s first order of business was to burn Plan B and tell regional it is the preference of the BTNF Jackson office to retain all 47 employees in Jackson. Period.


About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.

3 Comments

  1. BB

    August 8, 2013 at 10:15 am

    I couldn’t agree more about the library situation. The fact that such a grand expansion was proposed and finished and was followed up with reduced hours and proposals of even more reduced hours certainly makes you question the leadership at the library.

    I would have much preferred to keep the original library with more hours than have a state of the art facility that’s closed half the week.

  2. Deb Adams

    August 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Hello, BB –

    I’m glad to hear you value library services and keeping the doors open as much as possible. We want that, too! I’d love to hear your suggestions and concerns about the library’s budget. And I’d be happy to share with you the facts of our budget process, including the original proposal to expand the building. Please give me a call at 733-2164 x. 128 or email me at [email protected]

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Deb Adams, Library Director

  3. wally

    August 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    They were cutting staff and hours before the construction.

    The real waste is in the details like the huge lobby with the ‘light ‘sculpture’ and the gaming center, etc. Nonetheless, I still find the library to be a good investment for the community and most of us do, and it will certainly meet future needs better than the old library.

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