Rent hike could write final chapter for library
RONAN – A $1,400 per month rent increase may close the book on the Ronan Public Library and leave the town without the service.
“If a rent of this nature were imposed, the library would definitely have to close its doors,” said John Moon, Ronan District library budget board member and trustee. “I am sorry to have such a pessimistic outlook, but the facts are the facts and that is the truth.”
The Ronan City Council proposed the rent increase during the Monday, Dec. 16, meeting. The town is facing a fiscal shortfall requiring the use of funds from the savings account that will continue into the upcoming year. Board members started searching for additional funding opportunities to fill the gap.
Mayor Kim Aipperspach said the council started looking at the agreement the town has with the library.
Under the current lease plan, the Ronan library occupies approximately 3,450-square-feet of space on the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue at a rate of $10 per year from the city.
The town’s finance committee was tasked with looking into the cost of rent in town. Their research determined that space the size of the library would cost $1,400 per month.
“Basically, we went up and down Main Street and found out what some of the average rents were,” said Aipperspach. “We found out the average rent for a space about that size was around $1,400 a month.”
With the average cost of rent figured, town officials sent the library a notice of intent in October to negotiate the terms of the lease agreement. The negotiations didn’t occur.
According to the mayor, several city council members perceived a lack of communication from library officials in regards to the notice, so Aipperspach sent a hand-written letter to the library stating the amount of the rent increase. He also wrote that the matter would be addressed and voted on during the Monday, Dec. 16, Ronan City Council meeting. “Please, feel free to attend the meeting with your comments and ideas,” he wrote to the library.
During the city council meeting on Monday, a crowd filled the council chambers with an overflow of supporters flooding into the hall in defense of the library. Addressing the council, Ronan Library Director Michelle Fenger said the proposed $1,400 a month rent figure was “absolutely impossible for our budget.”
“I honestly don’t know how we could do it,” Fenger said. “We don’t even have that much budgeted for a month for books and we are a library. We are asking for the chance to negotiate, sit and discuss this together, so we can continue to provide a safe place for our community to utilize the free services that we offer.”
One of the half-dozen residents who addressed the council to advocate for the library said: “This is heartbreaking.”
The mayor addressed the crowd and said it wasn’t the council’s intention to close the library. “We don’t want to shut the library down,” said Aipperspach. “We just wanted to get the conversation started.”
Ronan council members did not vote on the proposed rent increase during the meeting; instead, they tabled the issue and scheduled negotiations between the library and the city, which are open to the public on Monday, Jan. 13, at 6: 30 p.m.