Commissioners learn there are no plans to reopen library branches

What began as an update from the Dougherty County Interim Library Director turned into a heated debate from the Dougherty County Board of Commissioners.

During the summer, two of the four county library branches were closed by the Library Board of Trustees.

The board of commissioners have since debated the closures claiming they had no previous knowledge of the decision until it was already made.

On Monday, interim library director Mary Antoine presented the costs saved by closing the two branches and the costs to reopen them. Antoine says the library board saved more than $300,000 by closing the Southside Branch and the Westtown Branch and it would cost upwards of $500,000 to reopen them.

Commissioner Gloria Gaines expressed strong feelings during the meeting saying the closures weren't the library board's only options. Gaines says the county's total budget for the libraries is more than $2 million and the cost of the two closed branches was 1/6 of that.

Antoine says the library board reviewed all of their options and decided the closures were the most cost effective.

Commissioner Muarlene Edwards also expressed concerns about the decision saying she understands they wanted to save money but those who used the two closed branches are the ones that need its services the most.

Edwards says those who don't have transportation or Internet services often walked to those libraries and the library board should think about reopening the branches with only the services that are in high demand.

The commissioners hope to resolve the issue of miscommunication by placing a county commissioner on the library board and say they'd like to work towards finding a better solution.

Antoine says at this point, there are no current plans to reopen either branch.

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