Trail council’s questionable tactics over library

Former president of Trail Historical Society speaks out

I feel I must comment on the article that appeared in the November 22 issue of the Trail Times regarding operation of the new Trail Library ((Trail addresses politics of the public library, Trail Times, Nov. 22).

Reading the quotes from the Minister of Education’s letter, it is clear city council approached him seeking ways to dissolve the current library board and take control of the new library using city staff.

Why wasn’t the public informed they were taking this action before the Minister was approached? We are just learning about it now because the Minister has responded to the request in writing making it very clear he was having no part of this. Why has council hidden this information from the public? Why is there no public consultation from this council?

Mayor Mike Martin questioned the sustainability of the current governance structure for the operation and management of the library under the Library Act. This is just a veiled excuse to gain control over the affairs of the library.

Mayor Martin also indicates council does not have faith in the ability of the current, or future, library board to function successfully in the Riverfront Centre. He does not state why council believes the board cannot continue to provide library services from a new location that they have successfully provided the public in the Memorial Centre.

Clearly this council does not support or trust volunteer groups operating public facilities. Even those that have been doing so successfully for decades.

The Trail and District Public Library was founded in 1958 by the assent of the electors of the City of Trail, Village of Warfield and the District of Tadanac. I am not sure, but I think to change the current governance structure would require a referendum as well. A troublesome prospect for Council. So, they asked the Minister to do it for them.

I am well aware of the tactics being employed by council to have complete control over the operation of the Riverfront Centre. For 40 years the Trail Historical Society operated and managed the Trail Museum and Archives. The society developed a new vision for a Trail Museum in 2011 and petitioned the council led by then-mayor Dieter Bogs to support the construction of a new museum and archives combined with a new library. They agreed and what we have today is the Riverfront Centre.

The society worked tirelessly for two years to design a facility that truly represents and fully describes the rich history of our community. I personally have put in hundreds and hundreds of hours working on the facility planning, exhibit design and fundraising campaign. In June, just as the goal of the society was within reach, the society board was told by council that the city was taking over responsibility for the operation and management of the new museum and archives – we’re in and you’re out.

This action was taken unilaterally by council without any consultation or discussion with the society board. We never even received a thanks for all the work that had been done on the new facility.

The impact on me personally was devastating. After devoting 2/3 of my life to the preservation of our community’s history, to be told you are no longer good enough was very tough to take and I resigned as president of the Trail Historical Society.

Council has now turned its attention to doing the same to the library board. But this is a much more difficult task because the library is regulated by the Library Act.

The action of council, at least the majority of council, is simply an effort to control every aspect of the Riverfront Centre. It is not based on any concerns over the ability of volunteers to successfully manage the facilities in the Riverfront Centre. They have done very successfully in the past. It is all about power. Do not be fooled into believing otherwise.

Council is now trying to impose its will on the library board by refusing to support their proposed budget in the new facility. Council has known for at least two years the cost to operate the library and museum in the Riverfront Centre was going to increase substantially over the current budget levels.

Last year they requested both boards to submit a five-year operating budget that would have clearly shown the anticipated costs of operating the library and museum commencing in 2018. I know in the case of the museum, the costs were to double.

The ‘integrated design’ of the facility, chosen by council, has only made maintaining service levels in the new building even more challenging and has of course increased operating costs.

Council is in a difficult financial position with new facilities becoming completely operational in the coming year. They are now trying to take the problem out on the poor library board because they are an easy target. I hope the library board stands firm so we can all enjoy the enhanced library services that the electors voted for and that are delivered by competent people.

Jamie Forbes

Trail

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