Library requests building grant in 2021 budget

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The Merrickville Public Library has submitted a request to council to have their building grant reinstated in the 2021 budget.

According to library CEO, Mary-Kate Laphen, the municipality at one time did provide the library with a grant every year to support the upkeep of the old building. When she started working at the library in the 1990s the grant was about $3000, but when they moved to the current building in 2008 it was sitting at $5000-$10,000.

Mary-Kate says they used up their building reserve on renovations and moving expenses in 2008, and although they requested that the yearly grant remain intact, the council of the day decided to suspend it since the newer building did not require as much maintenance as the Library’s old 1890 home.

That being said, the “new” 25 year-old building is now in need of some repairs, and the library board is looking to the municipality to help cover some of the costs. Mary-Kate says the municipality’s Chief Building Official (CBO) has submitted a report outlining some work that needs to be done on their roof, as well as several other areas on the exterior of the building. “There’s quite a bit of work that needs to be done now, and he also said that it’s something that we’re going to have to keep on top of going forward,” she told council at last week’s council meeting.

The municipality is the owner of the building and the library leases it for $1/year. It wasn’t until last year that the library board found out they were on the hook for the maintenance of the building and would have to look after the repairs to the roof and other related projects. “The library said OK, we can do this, but we would like the building grant back to pay for it because we don’t really have a revenue stream for that,” Mary-Kate says.

Although the library does have a reserve fund, this money is meant to be used for library improvements, like technology, new books and services, not building maintenance.

The library is asking that the municipality include $3000 in the 2021 budget for building repairs and maintenance, and that they commit to maintaining this grant yearly. “We thought a modest amount to start and then it’s something that can be adjusted from year to year depending on what needs to be done and what’s available,” Mary-Kate told council.

The library board is hoping that with the $3000 from the municipality, some surplus from previous years and donations, they will be able to raise a total of $14,000 to be placed in their building reserve. Mary-Kate says they are not sure how much all the projects will cost or whether they will be done this year, but if the money is not spent, it will remain in the reserve until it is needed.

Council will be considering the library’s request during the budget process over the next few weeks. Mary-Kate says that if council doesn’t agree to the $3000 and reinstating the building grant, it would be extremely detrimental for the library. “I’m not quite sure what the board’s going to do at that point, but it would definitely be a problem,” she says.

She is hopeful that council will decide in their favour as maintaining the library building, which is used by the community six days a week, is in the best interests of the municipality and its residents. “It is their building, and they want to make sure that it’s being kept up,” she says. “They don’t want to find out down the road that there was no money so things weren’t fixed and then problems developed. It’s in their interest to make sure that the building stays in good shape.”

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