Library board makes new offer to county

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By Molly Haines

The future of the old Owen County Public Library building is still up in the air as discussion continues between the library board and Owen County Fiscal Court.
The library board first approached the fiscal court in August and offered to deed the property at 118 North Main Street to the court for use by the Owen County Senior Center with the approval of a proposed 25-year agreement.
The proposed agreement asked that the county remove snow from the parking lot and sidewalks of the new library, mow an acre and a half weekly or as needed and “Bush Hog” the remaining acreage as needed, as well as perform routine maintenance on the library’s outreach vehicle.
Owen County Judge-executive Carolyn Keith said the court had agreed to the snow removal and bush hogging, but if lawn service was included, the court would have to purchase a larger mower and it could lead to the hiring of additional staff.
Keith said attorneys had advised the court to not enter into a 25-year agreement.
Owen County Public Library Director Jennifer Nippert said the library board is now offering the court a new proposal.

“Rather than ask for a long-term barter of services, we’re looking at a shorter term agreement,” Nippert said. “We’re asking for a five-year lease with utilities, insurance and maintenance of the building in exchange for either $300 a month in rent or for the services that were asked for in the original plan.”
Nippert said the $300 rent figure comes from offers to mow the grounds at the new library for $70 per cut and to remove snow from the parking lot and side walks at $130 per removal.
“If we have the grass cut 36 times in a year and snow removed 10 times in a year, that is roughly equal to the $3,600 rent,” Nippert said.
With the new proposal, the library board is also asking that the fiscal court make any major improvements to the facility.
Keith said she had some concerns with agreeing to making major improvements, including the heating and cooling system.
Nippert said when discussions with the court first began; the library board specifically mentioned that the furnace would need to be repaired in the near future.
“As far as I can tell from records the furnace is original to the building,” Nippert said. “Another point mentioned was that should the building be used for the seniors, that the bathroom would probably need to be remodeled to make it more accessible for the handicapped.”
Keith said she was concerned about investing county money in a building that the county doesn’t own.
“The court has to do what’s in the best interest of taxpayer money,” Keith said. “The senior program is a very important service, but we can’t jeopardize the stability of county government.”
Keith said the court would meet with the library board again after the New Year.
“I expect to keep discussing the options with them,” Keith said. “We’ve always worked very well with all of our special taxing districts and will come to a solution.”