The Merrickville Public Library Board is looking for financial support from the municipality to repair the roof and some exterior walls on the library building. Municipal staff presented a report to council at the meeting of November 23, outlining their current lease agreement with the library. In 2010, the building that currently houses the library was donated to the municipality by the Merrickville Lions Club. At that point, the library entered into a 25-year agreement with the municipality to lease the building at $1 a year, with the caveat that they take responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the building.
Councillor Timothy Molloy, who sits on the Library Board, said that, despite the terms of the lease, the library should not be responsible for the maintenance of a building that they do not own. As of December 31, 2019, the Library Board had $84,051 sitting in its reserves; but he argues that, as this money has been accumulated through donations, it should go towards library operations and programming, not building repairs.
CAO Doug Robertson confirmed that the estimated cost of the roof and exterior wall repairs is $20,000. “We have an issue where there are requirements for the building that the Library Board needs to take care of, and the money to meet those funds should not be coming from the operational programs that the library runs,” he said. “It would be a detriment to the children, teenagers, adults, seniors in the community.”
Councillor Molloy suggested that council meet with the Library Board to go over their concerns and discuss the possibility of renegotiating the terms of the lease. Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron noted that, should they renegotiate the lease and start charging the library for the use of the building, they would have to include the cost of building upkeep in the rent. “Indirectly, they would be paying for the repairs anyway,” he said.
According to the staff report, the library did have a building reserve fund that sat at around $64,000 at the end of 2009. Councillor Bob Foster suggested that, if they could discern if there was any money left in the library’s current reserve, that stemmed from this past building reserve, it could be used to pay for the repairs.
Mayor Doug Struthers committed to council that he would meet with the chair of the Library Board to hear more about what they think might need to be adjusted with the current lease. Council is also encouraging the board to put their concerns in writing, to be considered by council. “There is no question that our library is a very important asset in service to all the residents of our municipality,” he said. “We are all on the same page on that one.”