By Alex Bridges
Samuels Public Library can open on Sundays thanks to Front Royal Town Council.
Action to help fund the library's efforts to increase its hours beginning in September met some opposition Monday as council debated the town's fiscal 2014 budget.
Council voted on the second and final reading of the ordinance that appropriates the funds listed in the spending plan as discussed over the past several months.
Prior to the vote, Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker proposed an amendment to the ordinance to make a one-time transfer of $20,000 from the town to library operations. The amount would allow the library to open on Sunday in September.
Councilman Thomas H. Sayre said he wanted to see the library begin its Sunday hours earlier, perhaps at the beginning of the fiscal year July 1. Parker explained that the library would need more money to do so and Sayre tried to propose another amendment to increase the funding to $25,000. Council had to act first on Parker's amendment and Sayre did not bring back his proposal.
Councilmen Daryl L. Funk and Hollis L. Tharpe voted with Parker and Sayre to approve the library amendment.
Councilmen Bret W. Hrbek and Eugene R. Tewalt opposed Parker's amendment. Tewalt said he feared that Warren County would pull back its financial support of the library if the town started to increase funding for the facility. Hrbek questioned why the town should support what he called a "private" library. Hrbek also asked why the library went to the town for money rather than its patrons. Hrbek compared the library to the Warren County school system, noting the town does not raise money for either function.
"They are not what we are supposed to be taking care of and we do not raise revenue for it, so I think it's not ... it's not good stewardship of the assets that we have on behalf of the taxpayer, of the people of the town of Front Royal," Hrbek said.
Students should be able to check out books and do school work on Sundays, Funk said.
Parker noted that Warren County did not fund the library the amount needed to open on Sunday. Parker added that the town plans to spend money on a trail that runs by the library. Users of the path would not be able to visit the library should the building remain closed on Sunday, Parker said.
Hrbek argued the library could choose another day of the week to close or raise more money to open all week.
Earlier in the budget discussion Hrbek proposed the elimination of a line item in the budget of $10,000 for cultural activities spent on "Gazebo Gatherings." Hrbek's motion failed to receive a second.
When it came time for council to vote on the budget ordinance, Hrbek said the amendment to fund the library prompted him to oppose the town's spending plan. The budget ordinance passed on a 5-1 vote.
Council also voted 4-3 to approve the ordinance on a second reading to increase the water rate by 20 percent and the sewer rate by 23 percent. The new rates take effect July 1.
Parker, Hrbek and Tewalt voted in favor of the rate changes. Funk, Sayre and Tharpe voted against the increases.
The decision prompted Mayor Timothy Darr to cast a vote in favor of the increases. The town needs to pay for upgrades to its water and sewer plants, Darr explained.
"Once again, as previously stated, this is something that we don't have a whole lot of control over," Darr said. "We have to do it to pay the bills."
Also at the meeting council:
- Approved an ordinance to set the town's refuse collection rates effective July 1. Under the ordinance, fees increase as follows: 32-gallon containers from $11 to $12 per month; 96-gallon containers from $12 to $13.75 per month; weekly pickup of 8-cubic-yard containers from $217 to $227 per month; twice-weekly pickup of 8-cubic-yard containers from $267 to $277 per month.
- Approved on first reading an ordinance to amend the town code to allow Front Royal to sell surplus equipment through online public auctions. No one spoke during the public hearing held on the ordinance.
- Approved a reclassification of a deputy zoning administrator position from full time to part time. Parker voted against the measure. Front Royal saves $10,000-$15,000 by reducing the position to part time, said Town Manager Steven Burke.
- Approved spending $7,150 to cover the town's portion of the cost of designing drainage and grading improvements for the Catlett Mountain Landfill. A complaint about discolored runoff from the closed landfill site prompted the town and county to design and build a drainage system aimed at steering storm water away from the facility. The town still faces spending money to build the system.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org