In change of course, Gales Ferry Library to remain open

The Gales Ferry Library Wednesday, May 12, 2010. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
The Gales Ferry Library Wednesday, May 12, 2010. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Ledyard — In a change of plans, Mayor Fred Allyn III is now allowing the Gales Ferry Library to stay open, and library Director Gale Bradbury is working on a cost savings plan that will involve cutting hours and part-time staff at both libraries in town.

Allyn and Bradbury came to the agreement in a meeting on Tuesday, eight days after the mayor announced Gales Ferry Library would close indefinitely at the end of the month, and one day after residents spoke out against the closure at a semi-annual Gales Ferry District meeting on Monday.

Allyn attributed the altered course to discussions with his staff and with town councilors. Bradbury cited "the pushback from the Gales Ferry District, members who have always been passionate about their library."

The mayor has asked Bradbury to come back to him on Friday to present a new operating schedule with $115,000 to $120,000 in annual savings. Bradbury said she thinks this is achievable.

There will be reductions in hours at the Gales Ferry and Bill libraries, though Bradbury "can't say yet for sure" what the days and hours at each will be. The savings also will involve cutting part-time staff.

Bradbury said she has 15 part-time employees and must lay off 11. She said her line item for part-time employees is $119,000, while Allyn said part-time labor shows up as $128,236 on payroll.

Beyond the 15 part-time employees, Bradbury said, eight are union employees whose hours won't be reduced: three 40-hour employees, one who works 30 hours a week, one 23-hour worker, and three who each work 20 hours.

The library director said she is pleased at the prospect of keeping both libraries open, and she is hoping that "when the state gets their act together," some of the impact will be lessened.

Lee Ann Anderson, president of the Gales Ferry District, had expressed concern that closing Gales Ferry Library would've violated the lease of the library from the district to the town. The 99-year lease began in 1982, and an updated lease that includes the community center went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year.

Anderson's concern was over the line, "The Library Commission agrees that library services for both the Gales Ferry Library and the Bill Library shall be maintained at a proportional level at least equal to the level of library services now being provided by the Tenant."

Allyn said he was not concerned about legal action over the lease. He feels it's "really unfortunate that the clause puts that much onus on the town to continue a service" and that one of the issues with a 99-year lease "is that you don't know what changes from decade to decade, or in this case from year to year."

Anderson said part of the urgency for the push to keep Gales Ferry Library open was that "once Nov. 3 comes and it's closed, it's going to be harder to reopen."

Anderson said the Gales Ferry District plans to meet again and stay on top of this issue, and it has offered to do fundraising for the library.

e.moser@theday.com

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