Stafford denied special meeting to discuss library powers

Meg Bohmke and Tom Coen will serve as the Chairman and Vice Chairman, respectively, of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors in 2020.

Stafford County is the largest jurisdiction in the Central Rappahannock Regional Library System.

That means that at $5.4 million, the county — and its taxpayers – pay the most into the system that spans four counties, one city, with 10 library branches. But just because it pays more doesn’t mean it sways more.

When it comes to how the library is managed, Stafford County has equal with other jurisdictions that pay less to fund the system.

Stafford leaders want to discuss changing the seven-member board’s makeup on which it, like Spotsylvania and King George counties, and Fredericksburg City, have two members. Westmoreland County, with its low population size, has only one.

“We pay four times more than Fredericksburg but have the same power on the Board,” said Stafford County Rock Hill District Supervisor Crystal Vanuch.

Stafford leaders asked the library Board of Trustees to have a special meeting before the end of the year to discuss the board’s makeup. It declined and will meet for the final time this year on December 14.

For the past two months, Stafford leaders have discussed the county role in the regional library system. First irked by the fact the system didn’t reopen its library buildings until late September after closing them to the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Neighboring Prince William County, a much larger jurisdiction, reopened its libraries in June. Stafford County Deputy Administrator Mike Smith said he was working on a report to see how Stafford’s two libraries — the Porter Branch in the northern part of the county had the Howell Branch in the south — compare to other libraries in Prince William, and Albermarle and Henrico counties outside Charlottesville and Richmond, respectively.

“I want more information,” said Stafford Aquia District Supervisor Cindy Shelton, who calculated Stafford residents pay, on average, $35 per person to fund the libraries.

To break out the information for just Stafford’s libraries, it would require a change in the way transactions are recorded, said county budget director Andrea Light. It’s unclear when or if that report will make its way to the Board of Supervisors.

Discussions on whether or not to privatize Stafford’s libraries have stalled. Last month, some called for hiring an outside firm to perform an independent review of the county two libraries but have not done so.

Earlier this year, Manassas Park ended a relationship in place since 1979 with the Prince William Public Library System and contracted with the private firm Library Systems and Services to open a new library within its city limits. Since August, city residents don’t have to go into Prince William County to access a library.

Stafford County Hartwood Disrtict Supervisor Gary Snellings says he will not support leaving the Rappahannock library system.

“If we don’t like how the Board [of Trustees] is managing the library, we can simply change the [Board’s makeup], he said.

Kimberly Young, an employee of the University of Mary Washington, and Meg Bohmke, who is elected to the Stafford Board of Supervisors, represent Stafford County on the Library Board of Trustees.

One thought on “Stafford denied special meeting to discuss library powers

  1. I think Stafford needs to put leaving back on the table. I’m tired of our generosity being taken advantage of by other entities, incl FAMPO. Who can you always rely on? ..yourself.

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