By Josh LaBella
Monday’s meeting of the city council in the Harriet North Courtroom was filled with viewers from the public. That is, until public session of their regular meeting ended. Most of the people in the court room were there to protest or speak on lack of funding for the library system.
Supporters who spoke wanted to see the council make good on their promise that the library would receive $25,000 held in contingency last year for the FY19 budget as well as for them to provide greater funding in FY20.
Gertrude Beckwith, treasurer of Friends of the Library, said called the library “the stepchild” of the city and referenced repeated cuts. She said she would jump through hoops if she could but, not being able to, proceeded to stand on one leg.
“We’ve got less money,” said Beckwith, “and less people. We don’t know what to do. Please help. We need our $25,000. We really would like some more money in the budget for next year.”
Chairman Ron Quagliani responded to Beckwith and Colleen Bailie, the library director who was sitting in the audience, by telling them to meet with Finance Director Frank Cieplinski and request a transfer.
“The transfer form has to be submitted to the finance director,” said Quagliani. “He signs off on it. It goes to the mayor who signs off on it. And then it comes to us and goes on our agenda. So, if you get that done between now and next Tuesday at noon, it will appear on our agenda for a request for a transfer of funds for that $25,000.”
Beckwith and library employees and cohorts said they were never told they needed to complete those steps to get the funds.
John Galvin, President of the Village Improvement Association, called the way the council had treated Bailie when she was called in front of them on April 22 “atrocious.” He said the council’s “political shenanigans” were disgraceful and called the process “a runaround.”
“You’re despicable,” said Galvin. “You’re failing in your civic duty to be answerable to your constituents.”
Quagliani said the council had unanimously agreed to add $25,000 to the library budget to flat-fund it on April 30. Several other people spoke to the council about funding the library.
Later in the meeting, when nearly all of the attendees had cleared out, the council voted to approve mayoral appointments to the Ethics Board, Board of Health and Economic Development Commission.
They also approved current year line item transfers to vehicle maintenance. But what took up most of the discussion was their approval of a request for proposal for tax lien sales. The sale of the liens would bring in $1.4 million and the mayor claimed the city needed to do so to fill a hole in the budget.
Some of the council members expressed regret at having to sell tax liens but the vote passed with a majority of nine votes. Council members Martone, Morrissey and Charney voted against the motion, with Forsyth being absent.