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May 19, 2024

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Commissioners Discuss County Library Participation

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is currently deliberating a potential alteration in their involvement with the Fontana Regional Library System (FRLS).

Previously, the county had a 10-year contract with the FRLS that was set to renew in December. However, it was allowed to expire and renew automatically. This contract encompassed various aspects, including the leasing and operations of the Jackson and Cashiers libraries, financial responsibilities, and the composition of the board. The central point of contention revolves around the representation and appointment process for counties on the FRLS regional board.

During the board’s regular meeting on August 15, Keith Blaine, Chair of the Jackson County Republican Party, expressed strong objections to the current structure. He raised concerns about the absence of public comment opportunities during library board meetings and the perceived complexity of the board structure, which involves both local and regional boards. Blaine presented a list of suggested actions, including shifting policymaking to local boards and making direct appointments to the FRLB, even from individuals outside the already appointed lower boards.

County Manager Don Adams collaborated with other county managers to review the existing agreement and explore potential modifications. He presented a letter from all the managers, summarizing their evaluation of the agreement and offering recommendations.

Adams remarked, “It’s a robust and effective agreement that has been in place for many years. All the managers concur that the Fontana Regional Library has faithfully served our communities for 75 years. We believe that this multi-county collaboration has consistently provided valuable resources and has operated effectively throughout the years.”

The managers also reached a consensus on granting the regional system the authority to establish policies, while counties retain influence through financial contributions and board appointments.

Notably, the managers did not propose withdrawing from the regional system. Maintaining the current system is deemed crucial because local governments lack the experience and expertise required to run libraries effectively, according to Adams.

If all county boards of commissioners concur, the proposal will be presented to the FRLS. Local commissioners would also need to pass amendments related to board composition.

Commissioner John Smith suggested postponing a decision on this matter, providing the Jackson board with more time to study the agreement before taking a definitive stance.

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