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Board members, director to meet with facilitator to resolve issues

James River Valley Library System Director Joe Rector and board member said none of the board members were notified that Stutsman County Commissioner Joan Morris would present information about the county library at the county commission's special meeting.

Stutsman County Library
Stutsman County Commissioner Joan Morris told the county commission Friday, Aug. 5, that 104 people came into the Stutsman County Library from noon to 5 p.m. over five days in July.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun file photo
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JAMESTOWN – James River Valley Library System Director Joe Rector and board member Pam Phillips along with Stutsman County Commissioner Joan Morris will meet together with a facilitator Monday, Aug. 15, to resolve issues that surfaced at the county commission’s special meeting on Friday, Aug. 5.

The James River Valley Library System Board of Directors unanimously approved on Wednesday, Aug. 10, paying Debora Denny, owner of Facilitation and Mediation Resources, a rate of $50 per hour to facilitate the meeting between Rector, Morris and Phillips to discuss the information that Morris presented Friday at the county commission. She will meet with the three for two hours.

Morris moved at the county commission’s meeting to keep the library system’s funding from Stutsman County the same as the previous year and to encourage the library board to close the Stutsman County Library to visitors, leaving Alfred Dickey Public Library open to the public.

Because the issue was not on the county commission’s agenda on Friday, Aug. 5, no action by the commission could be taken to encourage the library board to close the Stutsman County Library.

The county commission approved 4-0 to deny the library system’s request for a $60,000 increase to its budget which would have restored the amount cut last year. County Commissioner Ramone Gumke was not present.

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Rector and Phillips said after the meeting that nobody on the library board was notified that Morris would present information about the Stutsman County Library at the meeting. Rector said he was notified about the special meeting at 8:44 a.m. Friday, which was one hour and 15 minutes before the meeting.

Three members of the general public also spoke at the county commission meeting to advocate the commission not increase the library system’s budget, including Bob Boyar, who is a past president of the Friends of the James River Valley Library System.

The library board also held a retreat Thursday, Aug. 4, but Rector and Phillips both said Morris did not notify anyone she would present information about the county library during the commission meeting Friday.

Morris was not present at the library board meeting. A call to Morris after the meeting was not returned.

The agenda for the county commission’s meeting states:

  • call to order and roll call
  • sheriff’s building discussion and/or bid approval
  • 2023 preliminary budget discussion
  • adjourn special county commission meeting

The email notification that The Jamestown Sun received about the special meeting was sent at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, and does not list any library board members or Rector on the email list. Morris was on the email list.
Rector said he didn’t attend because he did not realize a discussion would be held about the library system.

At the county commission’s special meeting, Morris said she along with others had extra time to see how many visitors Stutsman County Library had from noon to 5 p.m. over five days sometime in July.

She said the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Stutsman County office has a program where children are allowed to pick up food at various locations.

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“What is happening is the Extension office locks their door so what they’re doing is forcing the children that want to get the food to come into the Stutsman County Library door, and that is what is happening for the Stutsman County Library volume going up,” Morris said.

Morris said 104 people came in from noon to 5 p.m. over the five days, and 42 of the patrons were just people who picked up the food and left.

“They were probably there for maybe a minute, minute and a half, and they left,” she said.

If you just take the people who went to the library and excluded the children getting their meals, the visits are down to 1 1/2 visits per hour at the county library, she said.

Morris said she contacted the North Dakota State Library and it is $49.17 per person for city residents and $39.60 per person for Stutsman County residents for library taxes in 2022. The tax per person for Stutsman County included $60,000 more in total revenue because the numbers were from 2021.

Without the $60,000 included in total revenue, it costs $31.44 per person for Stutsman County residents in library taxes.

“This is library taxes per person so it is basically taking the tax revenue per library, dividing it by the number of people in the population that it serves, this is your amount per person,” Morris said.

She said the state librarian picked libraries that are similar to the James River Valley Library System because they have a bookmobile and higher population. Libraries that the library system was compared to for the 2022 library taxes per person included city and county libraries in Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot, Dickinson, Williston and West Fargo.

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If the city of Jamestown and Stutsman County do not reach an agreement to renew the memorandum of understanding to provide joint library services, those who live outside city limits will need to rely on county library services or pay a fee to use the Alfred Dickey Public Library, Rector said after the meeting Friday.

“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” he said. “I’m glad the county commission did not vote to ask the library board to close the Stutsman County Library.”

The memorandum of understanding states both buildings will operate as directed by the JLB (joint library board).

“If the JLB eventually decides on diminished use or discontinued use of one or both of the existing facilities, the JLB will devise a plan for transition to the new design,” the memorandum states.

Rector said the county library would be closed by the commission if it decided to pull out of the memorandum of understanding.

Either party may withdraw from the agreement by providing a notice of intent to withdraw at least two years prior to the expiration of any five-year term. The current five-year term expires in 2024.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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