Citizens Group Presents Plan to Combine Library and Rec Center
By Anne McKay Garris
Over fifty people met, last week, to discuss a plan to save both Clearwater Beach Branch Library and Recreation Center. The basic idea, brought before the meeting by a group of Clearwater Beach citizens, is to combine the two activities in one, thus saving enough money to make the program pay for itself eventually.
On hand to show their concern about the City Manager's proposed closing of both the recreation center and the branch library were citizens from Clearwater Beach, Sand Key, Island Estates, and even two couples who live on Belleair Beach. These people enjoy using the Beach Branch Library so much that they are willing to pay the $100 a year fee to do so.
One Beach citizen stated that he would be willing to accept only 20 hours a week, if that would help a library presence remain on the Beach. Several spoke in a mood of indignation that there should be any talk of closing our two facilities when it is common knowledge that new real estate taxes from the Beach are far in excess of other places in the city.
Realizing that the Beach Branch cannot afford to remain in rental quarters where the rent escalates each year, most people seemed interested in the group's proposal to move the library services to the recreation center. Pat Power, spokesman for the citizen group that called the meeting, explained that the financial problem was with personnel expenses.
"There are adequate funds for capital improvements," she said. "In fact, plans have already been designed for enlarging the recreation center to make room for a larger library space. The problem is funds for personnel to operate the library and the recreation center and keeping a library presence on the Beach while the renovations are proceeding."
The basic plan, presented to the meeting, would create a citizens advisory committee for both the library and the recreation center and volunteers to help with the operation of both activities. Income from rentals of the large room at the recreation center would help defray the cost of operation and volunteers would provide more programming which would add to the income.
Rita Garvey, former mayor of Clearwater and currently president of the Friends of the Clearwater Library, was on hand to express her support of the plan. "It is the neighborhood branches that really service the people," she said, promising the support of Friends of the Clearwater Library in keeping the Beach Branch open. She also spoke of contacting the Clearwater Library Foundation about help with funding, at least for the building part.
Clearwater Vice Mayor John Doran, long an active member of Clearwater Beach Association and the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, promised the people his enthusiastic support for keeping a library presence on the Beach. He discussed, at length, some of the ways and means of making it financially possible.
Clearwater Beach Association President Jerry Murphy reminded the meeting, "When Catharge gave Julius Caesar trouble, he burned the library. And remember who burned the books before World War II." He added words of support for the proposed plan and stated that the Clearwater Beach Association was 100 percent in favor of working out something to keep both the library and the recreation center functioning.
There was discussion on how to keep the basics in place while expansion of the recreation center was proceeding. Included in the basics were a computer with the library collection in it so books could be ordered, delivered and picked up at the site; DVD's and movies and computers for people to use as they do now.
At the end of the meeting, Jerry Murphy asked for a show of support for the basic idea of combining the two facilities in some manner that would keep them both operating. The vote was unanimous and many of those present staid to volunteer to help with the project.
Spokesman Pat Power has since reported that Councilmember Paul Gibson has expressed interest in the proposal and indicated his support. Volunteers are needed to aid the librarian for four hours every two weeks. (If enough people volunteer it could be less than that.) People interested in volunteering to provide programs, work with an advisory group, supervise volunteers, keep books, promote activities at the center and probably more the committee has not thought of yet. Anyone interested in helping should call Pat Power at 446-5982.
At the meeting, one old-timer commented, "This may be a blessing in disguise. Already I have met several neighbors. Having a neighborhood center which depends on neighbors participating together to succeed is not a bad thing. It will get us out of our houses and into friendly activities that benefit us all. This is a tradition on Clearwater Beach and I am excited about it."
Several others spoke of the advantages to both facilities of having them in the same building and the meeting adjourned on a positive note.
In the next several weeks, the City Council will be considering the varied demands on a finite amount of money. The neighborhood committee, which put the combination proposal together, has gone a long way towards saving our facilities towards extinction.
"E-mails to members of the Council from the community will help," said Pat Power.
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