County to discuss library with officials
By Cassandra Favre
Jun 20, 2017, 18:40
The Hancock County Board of Supervisors will host a special meeting this Thursday, June 22 at 5 p.m. to discuss a new interlocal agreement concerning the Hancock County Library System.
Prior to the library discussion, there will be a meeting to consider Trash Doctors amendment to the solid waste plan at 4 p.m.
During the June 12 meeting, President Blaine LaFontaine said a copy of the information and a draft of a new interlocal agreement will be submitted to incoming elected officials for discussion at the first meetings in July.
"The new proposal that we've gathered and look to obtain would ask for $1.7 million in funding the first year, FY '18, and reduced to $1.5 million in FY '19," he said at the meeting. "It would reduce the county millage appropriation from $1.3 million down to $1.075 million over a two-year period. Additionally, allowing the cities of Waveland and Bay St. Louis with an opportunity with the schedule we've looked at to reducing their millage by a full mil over a two-year period."
LaFontaine said Tuesday those numbers were derived from a budget scenario given to the board by the library's board of trustees.
"There will be no significant change or impact on the branches," he said.
LaFontaine also said that appointments to the library's board of trustees would change from five to seven, giving the county four seats and each city one.
Although there will be no public comments taken during Thursday's meeting, Hancock County Library System Executive Director Courtney Thomas said Tuesday she urges supporters to "let their presence be their voice."
"The proposed cuts mean a reduction in services," she said. "Our budget is trimmed already. We have the best system in the state and we want to keep it that way. Our library is a bright spot in this county."
Thomas said one of her main concerns is that county meetings held about the future of the library did not include the board of trustees.
"They sign the contract as well," she said. "They've been excluded in this process the entire time. I'm very disappointed that they've been excluded. The funding issue is something we do every year. Nothing in the contract establishes funding. It (the contract) says we exist. It's a contract for services where our board and public entities agree to have library services."
LaFontaine said the board met with the library's board of trustees at the end of February. He added that - in the past 45 days - the board requested information from trustees.
"One of the reasons they're not included is that they don't vote on interlocal policy," LaFontaine said. "The discussion will be held with officials, not trustees."
LaFontaine said Thomas will be welcome to the discussion. LaFontaine said Thursday's meeting should be short and the floor will be open for local officials to speak.
"The public will have the opportunity to address local entities moving forward," LaFontaine said. "I've heard comments that we're trying to privatize. If we were trying to cut services or privatize, we wouldn't be trying to get a new interlocal agreement."
He said the interlocal agreement presented Thursday will directly replace the 1991 agreement.
The Library Services Contract dated August 7, 1991, states it is between the "Hancock County Library System Board of Trustees, the city of Waveland, the city of Bay St. Louis and the county of Hancock, Mississippi."
The contract was signed by then-library director Prima Wusnack; Hancock County Library System chairman George Bensabat; former Waveland Mayor Stella Frilot and Waveland City Clerk Arcelyn Dastugue; former Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre and Bay St. Louis City Clerk Kay Johnson; and former Hancock County Board of Supervisors President Ronald Cuevas and Chancery Clerk E. Michael Necaise.
"The fact that the board (supervisors) opted out (of the 1991 agreement) makes it null and void," he said.
LaFontaine said there will be a whole new one in place, which he hopes that not only the county will sign, but also the cities of Waveland, Bay St. Louis and Diamondhead.