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Hundreds start campaign to stop Commissioners from outsourcing library services

ROCKWALL – Hundreds of angry and concerned area citizens have started a campaign to “Save the Rockwall County Library” over the past few days in response to County Judge Jerry Hogan’s recent idea to outsource library services and County building custodial services in order to save $458,000 which he said is needed for next year’s budget.

Hogan (pictured above) floated the idea to County Commissioners at their workshop session May 31, and said he would formally propose outsourcing the services at their regular monthly meeting, June 14, 9 am, in the Historic County Courthouse.

Hundreds of messages have now been sent via Facebook, emails, phone calls and fliers to alert area residents and encourage them to contact County Commissioners to vote against Hogan’s proposal.

A “Save the Rockwall County Library” Facebook page was launched yesterday which nearly 300 people “liked” in just the first day. The number increased to nearly 400 by 6 pm today.

On the page, campaign organizers say they want to keep the library as it currently exists. Exactly who launched the page is not yet known. It reads:

“I’ve created this page to be a resource for how YOU can help save our library. The county commissioners are considering some drastic cost-cutting measures that may go as far as outsourcing all the staff in what is deemed a good “business decision.” Let’s stand together in the best interest of the children and the entire community of Rockwall and say HANDS OFF OUR LIBRARY!”

A flier distributed Tuesday by volunteers at the library and posted on Facebook had a similar message but added far more detail. It reads:

“Save your library!

The first draft of the 2012 Rockwall County budget, prepared by Judge Jerry Hogan, calls for reducing funding to the Rockwall County Library by $300,000.

On May 31, 2011, Judge Jerry Hogan proposed that to achieve the $300,000 in cuts library services be outsourced to a for-profit company like Library Systems and Services (LLSI).

To accomplish spending cuts and still make a profit, a library outsourcing company will:

-          Terminate each and every county library employee. Some will be hired back by the outsourcing company, many in part-time positions without benefits.

-          Reduce the frequency and quality of the children’s programming.

-          Purchase materials for the Rockwall County Library corporately without local control or input by Rockwall citizens.

The flier goes on to quote a Rockwall County Herald Banner article, dated June 3, stating that Hogan has talked with private companies about third-party management, and adds:

“He was only sworn into office Jan. 1, 2011! He did this without any consultation with the members of the Library Board* or the Library Director. Judge Hogan is quoted in the same newspaper as saying that the library outsourcing is “a very wise business decision for us to make.”

The author of the flier then alleges Judge Hogan and other County Commissioners see children’s library programming as nothing more than babysitting.

“Judge Hogan wants to believe the sales pitch by LLSI that they will provide the same services and programs. How can that be when the judge neither knows nor understands what the Library provides for the families of Rockwall County? Many on the commissioner’s court, including our county judge, see children’s library programming as nothing more than “babysitting.” Is that how you feel? If so, do nothing.”

“If you disagree with the judge, then you MUST act and soon.”

The flier then shows what actions concerned citizens can take:

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  1. Email, telephone, or drop off a letter for your county commissioner and the judge at the historic courthouse at the corner of Goliad and Hwy 66.
  2. Let the court know specifically what the Library means to you and your family and how the services at the Rockwall County Library benefit you.
  3. Remind the court that in 2004 the majority of voters of Rockwall County approved a bond proposal for the building of a large and modern library building, the first building ever built in Rockwall county to be used specifically as a library.
  4. Remind your commissioner that you will not support them in re-election if they disregard your position on the Rockwall County Library.
  5. Attend the meeting at the historic courthouse on Tuesday, June 14, 2011, at 9:00 am.

Names of commissioners and contact info is provided next.

The campaign essentially began last Saturday when a Rockwall mother with eight children, Twyla Larman, visited the library with four of her children. She said she was informed by library staff that the facility might soon be closed or have services cut to help pay for the new courthouse.

“The last day of school brought cheers of, ‘Let’s go to the library!’ through my house. So I took 4 of my children to the library and was informed that, due to budget cuts, there is a possibility that the library may be closed or be out-sourced,” she immediately wrote to Commissioner David Magness, plus in an email to dozens of her friends and posted on Facebook.

“We were all shocked by the news. After pressing the librarians for more details, we learned that the cost of building the new courthouse was central to this decision.”

She said she understood from the librarians that $350,000 was still needed to complete construction of the courthouse, and commissioners felt the best way to obtain the money was to take it from the library budget.

At that point she wrote that she decided to alert as many people as possible to try to convince commissioners to vote against any budget cuts or closing.

In her letter to Magness, she wrote:

“I would ask you to look for other means to deal the astronomical price tag of the county courthouse.  I would remind you also that voters approved the construction of the library and we rejected the courthouse, not once, but twice.  The size and style are an embarrassment to Rockwall County.”

“While the library is a large building, it is friendly and inviting with its stone and brick exterior and metal roof.  The courthouse, on the other hand, is pompous and arrogant with its large archways and gold domes (yes, one dome was not enough so we had to add a second).  I have had several friends from Garland and Rowlett comment on the ridiculous size and style of the courthouse.  Were any focus groups put together to see what the people would like the courthouse to look like?”

“Please do not close our library or take away its greatest asset, the librarians, to pay for YOUR courthouse.”

Hogan is currently out of the County but said it an email to TheRockwallNews.com that he will return this week and attempt to clarify his outsourcing ideas.

Commissioner David Magness told TheRockwallNews.com Monday that he is opposed to outsourcing and thinks commissioners should leave the popular facility alone, which he said he understands attracts 15-20,000 people per month in the summer.

He added it would likely be discussed at the commissioners workshop session held yesterday, but no information is currently available about those discussions.

More information about the campaign and responses from Commissioners will be forthcoming later today or tomorrow.

By J.J. Smith, Publisher

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