It appears the Seymour Community Library will be open this Saturday.
If not, it appears the Seymour Board of Aldermen won’t provide funding for the upcoming fiscal year to the facility, according to conversation last Thursday at the group’s regular meeting before near-full council chambers at Seymour City Hall.
The issue of being open on Saturdays came to a head at the meeting during comments from South Ward Alderman Dan Wehmer.
“The pressing question to each of you is really a simple one,” Wehmer said to Amber Johnson, Jennifer Pogue and Beth Porter, members of the nine-person library board.
“Why is the library not open on Saturdays?”
Porter, speaking on behalf of the library board as its just-elected president, said she couldn’t provide a quick and easy answer.
“Most of us on the board are new members,” she began.
“Listen, Beth, I like you,” he said. “You’re a professional in this field. I’m not. And those who you’ve brought with you tonight also know their stuff. Jennifer’s a school librarian. Amber’s been on this board quite a while. I know that all of you care. I’ve talked to each of you privately about the library and its future.
“But at the end of the day, to me it boils down to a single thing. The library being open on Saturdays. Last fall, per the board minutes, even the former library board agreed that this needed to be done. But it’s still not done.”
Wehmer asked Porter if opening on Saturdays had been discussed.
“Many times,” she responded.
“Okay, let me ask this,” he continued. “I know you’ve got one employee who refuses to work on Saturdays — she said it in here before this board a month or two ago.”
“Yes,” Porter affirmed.
“I’ll assume that the other employee also doesn’t want to work on Saturdays, because I’ve had individual members of the library board quiz me on my thoughts about hiring a third person to work on Saturdays,” Wehmer said.
“That’s been mentioned,” Porter said.
“Hiring another employee?” Wehmer asked.
“Yes,” she responded.
“And I’m told that because of the time needed to train this theoretical employee, now there are some who think the library can’t open on Saturdays until June?” he asked.
Porter just shook her head.
“This isn’t my plan,” she said.
“I know, Beth,” Wehmer said. “You’ve run into your own form of gridlock.
“I’ll just make this easy ... at least from my personal perspective, and I’m not speaking for the board. If that library isn’t open on Saturdays until June, which makes absolutely no sense to me, then I personally won’t vote for one red cent to be appropriated to the library’s budget for the next fiscal year that starts July 1.”
Wehmer reiterated that this was his opinion.
But support came from his colleagues.
“I’ll vote the same way,” North Ward Jim Ashley said just seconds after Wehmer’s statement.
“We’ve been asking for the library to be open on Saturdays for more than a year. We’re not asking for much — just to have the doors open three hours on Saturdays.”
Fellow North Ward Alderman Darrel “Bub” Wallace, who was sworn into office only 30 minutes prior, agreed with Ashley’s assessment.
“I support them on this,” he said. “From what I seen on this issue, the board is just asking for the library to be open every Saturday.”
“It’s a very basic request,” Wehmer said to Porter. “And, Beth, I know you’re on board with this. I’ve talked to you, Jennifer, and you, Amber, privately about this. I don’t wan to run the library. Neither does this board. But for more than a year now, we’ve asked about Saturdays. And nothing seems to ever happen.”
Earlier in the meeting, Porter asked the aldermen about its perspective on the library adding a new employee.
City Administrator Hillary Gintz provided an immediate answer, noting that the library annually is budgeted a payroll amount.
“This fiscal year, the library was budgeted $27,625 for its payroll,” she explained. “As of today, the amount that’s been spent is $19,261.56, which leaves $8,363.44 available until the end of the fiscal year.”
“Is the board for or against hiring a new person?” Porter asked.
“I don’t think the aldermen want to comment on that,” Gintz responded. “It’s no longer their job to oversee the library’s employees or payroll.”
“I’ll give a comment, Beth,” Wehmer said.
Porter turned to Wehmer.
“Why is your board coming to us with this?” he asked.
“Quite frankly, as I’ve told other members of your board when they asked, I don’t care who works at the library and when they work.
“But what concerns me is who actually is running this operation? Your board? If so, lay down the law and let your existing employees know about the work hours. If we had an employee in the water department who refused to work on Thursdays or an employee in the sewer department who said he wouldn’t work on Mondays, then we sure wouldn’t tolerate it for very long. Neither should you.”
Porter asked Wehmer what he was suggesting.
“Read between the lines, Beth,” he responded. “Here is what I will say. Your library board runs the library. Period. Our board provides the funding. Granted, we provide most of your money. And all we’ve ever asked for is for the library to be open Saturdays. That’s it.”
When Wehmer spoke to the three members of the library board at Thursday’s meeting, he asked if any of them were in favor of hiring a third employee.
None endorsed the idea.
“Yet neither of your current employees will work on Saturdays?” he asked.
“Correct,” Porter said.
“This is just insane,” Wehmer responded. “I feel for each one of you. Who knew that being open for three hours on a Saturday would be so difficult?”
Porter asked Wehmer if the board was for or against the hiring of another employee.
“I’m for opening on Saturdays,” he said. “I can’t see the need in hiring another person. Why are you considering the hiring of three people for 43 hours a week? Using that logic, it would be like the city hiring three contract mowers to do 40 hours of mowing every week.”
“You’re not for it?” Porter pressed.
“My opinion ... no,” Wehmer said. “Why can’t the staff that’s there now put in those hours?”
He was told that employee Joy Hume, who is retired, was limited on the number of hours she can work because of Social Security.
“Then balance her hours to include a Saturday or two,” Wehmer responded. “Do you not see how complicated this has become for absolutely no reason? Almost everyone in the workforce works Saturdays at one time or another.”
Wallace said that he’s worked Saturdays in most of his jobs, and Ashley said he’s also worked many Saturdays.
“When you work a job, Saturdays are part of it in almost every one of them,” Crisp added.
“Beth, I think you’ve got your answer,” Wehmer concluded.
“I’m not talking about this any more because I need to just shut up. The board wants the library open on Saturdays, effective immediately.
“If that doesn’t occur, then I think it’s safe to say that’s a factor when it comes time to approve a budget in June. And if this stance makes people throw me out of office when my term is up, so be it. We’re on the high ground here. Those who we represent have said they want our library open on Saturdays. That’s been said by residents here to several of us, and I don’t think we’re asking for much.”
“I think we have your opinion on this, and we should have a lot to talk about at our meeting next Monday,” Porter said as she left the podium and returned to her seat next to Johnson and Pogue