2009-11-01 / Front Page

Chesaning Ed Board washes hands of library

Sends library back to townships
By Jeanne Marcello Staff Reporter

A FULL HOUSE - Approximately a dozen members of the audience stood during the Oct. 26 meeting of the Chesaning Union Schools Board of Education, as there were more people than chairs. (TCC Photo by Jeanne Marcello) A FULL HOUSE - Approximately a dozen members of the audience stood during the Oct. 26 meeting of the Chesaning Union Schools Board of Education, as there were more people than chairs. (TCC Photo by Jeanne Marcello) CHESANING – The Chesaning Union Schools Board of Education held a special meeting Oct. 26 inside the school media center (a.k.a. the high school library) to discuss the proposed agreement for Chesaning Public Library’s request to use the school district’s boundaries for the purpose of establishing a district library.

Board President Jennie Carlton opened up discussion for public comment. Many individuals spoke on both sides of the issue. Some individuals pressed for a list of the changes needed to make the contract work. Others were concerned about the burden a potential millage would place on farm properties. Parents, teachers and students spoke longingly about the educational benefits of the library. Still others focused on wanting the right to vote on the proposed library.

STUDENTS SUPPORT LIBRARY – Several students attended the Oct. 26 school board meeting to speak in favor of the district library. Some spoke during the meeting. Others held signs of support for the library. (TCC Photo by Jeanne Marcello) STUDENTS SUPPORT LIBRARY – Several students attended the Oct. 26 school board meeting to speak in favor of the district library. Some spoke during the meeting. Others held signs of support for the library. (TCC Photo by Jeanne Marcello) (For an overview of statements made during the meeting, see addendum. )

SCHOOL BOARD’S DECISION

After listening to the many individuals who spoke out during the public comment portion of the meeting, school board members discussed the issue amongst themselves, and asked questions of attorneys Michael Farrell of Thrun law firm representing the schools, and Anne Seurynck of Foster Swift Collins & Smith law firm representing the library.

The board members discussed sending the library back to the township boards for approval, which was met with a groan from the audience. Upon the advice of their attorney, the school board members adjusted their formal motion to say that if the majority of the 10 townships involved, that is six township boards, would provide written support of the district library, then the school board would “reconsider” their decision. In the meantime, they rescinded their June 24 decision, which would have allowed Chesaning Public Library to use the school district’s boundaries to form a district library, pending the agreement.

In a roll call vote, Jennie Carlton, David Eickholt, Duane Ferry, Kevin Fesler and Kathy Wasmiller voted to approve the proposal to send the library back to the townships. Trustees Martin Maier and Kent Schubert voted against the motion. The motion passed, 5-2.

After the meeting, Chesaning Public Library Director Erin Schmandt stated, “They would not have been liable. They’re scared of the township boards.”

REASONING

The Tri County Citizen contacted each school board member to ask why they voted the way they did.

President Jennie Carlton said, “I voted yes on the resolution to not sign the contract because it all came down to me the questions that our lawyer had with contract, that is what our meeting was about if we should or should not sign the contract as presented. I asked our lawyer in the meeting if he would sign the contract he stated to me that the contract as written had risen several red flags for him. He could not assure me that this was something that we should sign. I am not a lawyer and I have to have faith in our legal council to give us the best advice for the students in our district. I could not vote to sign something that our legal council was not 100% behind.”

According to Carlton,

David Eickholt would not be available to respond to the question due to a death in the family. However, his position was made clear during the June 24 school board meeting, when the library proposal had been approved. At that time Eickholt stood against the proposal challenging Schmandt when she referred to “spreading the cost out fairly.” He asked about those who own farmland. “As I see it, I’d have to pay a lot of money. We shouldn’t have to be placed in this situation,” Eickholt had stated on June 24.

Treasurer Duane Ferry commented, “Well, I have my own reasons, and I’d like to pass on this.”

Secretary Kathy Wasmiller said, “I feel that this was a township decision and I wish everybody would go to their township meeting and make it known how they feel.”

Trustee Kevin Fesler stated, “I felt it was in the best interest of the school district to not get involved at this time.” He explained that he felt there wasn't complete support for the project in the community. “I want to be convinced that we have good solid community support before doing something that will lead to increasing taxes. We live in difficult financial times and higher taxes may put people in a position where they can no longer afford their farm, home or business.” “Erin did an excellent job,” he commented. But he was concerned that they were “doing something that is not strictly school business.” “Our attorney was telling us we had some financial liabilities we were not aware of.” He explained he is not prepared to put the school district in a position where they would have unexpected costs. “I felt like there were some other avenues that the library could pursue,” Fesler continued, adding, “I don't think we're done with this issue. I think the school district needs to look at the library we have.”

“There are lots of dynamics to keeping a school district running. It's not just books. It's money, jobs, building maintenance, education quality, safety, effect on the community, the list goes on. One has to keep all of these things in mind when choosing the direction our school district will go,” he concluded.

Trustee Martin Maier stated, “In my opinion, I believe the library and the school district should be partners hand-in-hand.” He talked about how he feels the people should make the decision to fund the library or not. “I was for the people making that decision,” Maier concluded.

Trustee Kent Schubert did not respond.

DECISION LIES WITH TOWNSHIPS

Since the library issue is now in the townships’ hands, below is a list of the 10 townships that are part of the Chesaning Union School District, along with the dates of their next scheduled meetings. Township residents are in the best position to influence their own township board.

ALBEE TWP – 2nd Tuesday, 8 p.m. – Nov. 10

BRADY TWP - 1st Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. – Nov. 4

CHAPIN TWP – 2nd Monday, 7:30 p.m. – Nov. 9

CHESANING TWP – 1st Thursday, 7:30 p.m. – Nov. 5

MAPLE GROVE TWP – 3rd Monday, 7 p.m. – Nov. 16

ST. CHARLES TWP – 1st Monday, 7 p.m. – Nov. 2

BRANT TWP – 2nd Tuesday, 7 p.m. – Nov. 10**

MARION TWP – 1st Monday, 7:30 p.m. – Nov. 2

HAZELTON TWP – 2nd Monday, 7 p.m. – Nov. 9

RUSH TWP – 2nd Thursday, 7 p.m. – Nov. 12

NEW HAVEN TWP – 1st Monday, 7 p.m. – Nov. 2

**Unconfirmed

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