Friday, October 19, 2007

Meeting with Senator from Indiana District 8

I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Jim Arnold (D) for Senate District 8 here in Indiana. Senator Arnold and I toured the Library and then we discussed the proposed consolidation issue for Public Libraries in Indiana. Senator Arnold definitely agreed about the erosion of control of local government. Senator Arnold stressed that people need to contact him and be heard. He recommended that I draft to him a letter that he could use when he discussed this with Senators from other districts. Senator Arnold needs to be thanked for taking the time to become personally involved regarding this issue.

A copy of my letter follows:

October 18, 2007

Senator Jim Arnold
5698 W. Johnson Road
LaPorte, Indiana 46350

re: Potential Consolidation of
Public Libraries in Indiana

Senator Arnold:

I am writing to inform you of my opinion regarding a portion of the governor’s charge to the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. I am in agreement that the way things are done are no longer working nor meeting the needs of Indiana taxpayers, but the costs of some of the alternatives need to be addressed as well.

In paragraph four, number two of the charge it is stated: “What local units of government (including schools and libraries) might be successfully consolidated to reduce overhead and administrative expenses.” This statement utilizes a “one-size-fits-all” mentality that will have devastating consequences on smaller communities in Indiana.

Many in this area already feel that big government is taking away too much control from the local taxpayers. If a larger framework for government makes sense for some areas then it should be utilized, but if a smaller framework is already working, why waste already scarce resources?

I regard consolidation of Public Libraries as an additional weakening of the only voice that some small communities have in this government. We cannot let this happen, this type of governmental overreach will not be tolerated.

To consolidate public libraries in Indiana and lose services would be a real detriment to our small communities. Maybe legislators need to look upon Indiana’s public libraries as a model for cooperative ventures instead of as liabilities.

Investigate the TRUE costs of consolidation. Buildings and equipment will need to be bought and paid for and a fair market value will need to be used. This WILL cost taxpayers of the state tens of millions of dollars.

I propose the following:

Investigate current regulations imposed on units of local government by the State of Indiana such as legal advertising requirements. Legal advertisements must still be printed, but must multiple publications be required? Utilization of Internet resources could be considered as a cost effective and complimentary way to inform residents.

Encourage participation in cooperatives among units of local government for: health insurance, building insurance, liability insurance, cooperative purchasing agreements for equipment and supplies, cooperatives for computer related equipment and maintenance. Participation could be made mandatory.

Address areas of the state where residents have no library service.

Has a timeline been considered for paying for consolidation costs and what could be the eventual payback? Legislators need to be realistic. It will take decades to realize any savings if any are to be had.

Encourage communities where consolidation makes sense to do so. Such legislation has already been enacted.

The above should be looked upon as potential stepping stones by which we can find a reasonable and cost effective resolution to some of the State’s current issues. Indiana’s Public Libraries are always willing to do their part to make their communities the best possible.

Thank you for taking time to fully investigate the issue. I am available at your convenience if you require additional information.

Best Regards,

Stephen Boggs

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