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Grand Jury studies Twelve Bridges Library

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Reduced staffing and hours at the Twelve Bridges Library, as well as a joint agreement between the city, school district and Sierra College were pinpointed in this year?s Placer County Grand Jury Report. The Placer County Grand Jury is ?an investigatory body with the authority to act as a watchdog on local government, investigate citizen complaints and assist in criminal matters at the request of the district attorney,? according to a June 25 press release from the grand jury. The grand jury report was released on Tuesday. ?The Grand Jury, after touring libraries in Placer County, noted that the Carnegie Library in Lincoln was closed. It was also noted that the Twelve Bridges Lincoln Library was open to the public on a very limited schedule and was seriously understaffed,? the grand jury reported. ?Further investigation indicated that the library was hampered by severe budget restrictions and was heavily dependent on the Friends of the Lincoln Library for volunteer staffing and program funding.? Twelve Bridges Library is funded jointly by the city of Lincoln, Western Placer Unified School District (WPUSD) and Sierra College through a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU. ?Budgetary restrictions and poor communication between the agencies were found to be restricting library services,? according to the report. The report states that Sierra College ?has failed to pay its full portion of operating expenses for 2010-11? and ?is obligated to repay a loan of $747,823 to the city of Lincoln by June 30, 2013. Recommendations made by the grand jury include Sierra College repaying the city of Lincoln ?its respective share of operating expenses for the library,? the city of Lincoln ?create an operating budget and itemized revenue and expense report as required by the MOU? and a new MOU ?reflecting the current and future of the library site be created by the libraries.? The development of a plan to ?increase hours to better match the community needs? was also recommended by the grand jury. ?As far as the fiscal realities and library hours and services are concerned, there are no surprises in the grand jury?s final report section on the Twelve Bridges Library,? said interim library director Jon Torkelson. ?I will be working with city administration to draft the required response to the Grand Jury findings and recommendations.? The News Messenger spoke with Sierra College Superintendent/President Willy Duncan about the report?s recommendations. Duncan said the college ?will have to draft an official response that needs to go back to the college? but is ?happy about? the recommendation to create a new memorandum of understanding between the three parties. ?We do all need to sit down and recognize the economic realities we?re all facing and try to work out the best (MOU) we can,? Duncan said. Duncan also said that Sierra College will ?going forward, pay $125,000? each year for library expenses and will repay the loan for construction costs of the library to the city. ?The amount I wouldn?t call accurate,? Duncan said. ?The original $747,823 was based upon the construction budget but that wasn?t what the actual expenses ended up being.? Based on an audit done in 2010, Duncan said, the loan amount owed is actually $601,562, and has always had a deadline of June 30, 2013. Duncan said that Sierra College did pay $125,000 in fiscal year 2010-11. ?There are terms within the MOU that entitle us to get together and talk each year about what they can afford to pay toward operations,? Duncan said. ?Prior to that year, Sierra College met with the group, including the city of Lincoln and WPUSD and we notified them at the time of how much we could pay.? What the college could pay, according to Duncan, was $60,000 for operating expenses and $65,000 for collections, or library materials. ?I?ll grant you that it isn?t the total amount by the original MOU that we were supposed to pay but we did go and meet with them by the terms of the MOU about what we could pay,? Duncan said. ?It?s accurate to say we didn?t completely pay but not accurate to say we didn?t meet the terms of the MOU.? Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman said the recommendation to rework the MOU ?is a pretty valid recommendation.? ?The parties have been discussing that as an option,? Leaman said. Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep said the contents of the grand jury report ?wasn?t anything unexpected.? ?There are a number of recommendations that aren?t necessary at this point, which is rewriting the agreement,? Estep said. ?While it would be nice to rewrite the entire MOU, it?s not necessary right now.? Estep said that is because what?s being paid by the three agencies to operate the library ?are what each of the three parties can afford, given the economy.? Mayor Spencer Short?s comment regarding the report was ?we?ll be happy to take it under advisement? and that creation of a new MOU ?requires the two other willing parties to negotiate.?