Wednesday, December 14, 2011
PPL: Good Meeting, Bad Vibes
PLATTSBURGH CITY - TUES. 12/13/11
With four jobs on the chopping block, about 45 library supporters attended the Tuesday evening meeting of the Plattsburgh Public Library Board of Trustees held in the PPL second floor auditorium.
Overall supporters maintained a positive tone, those speaking to the board offering suggestions, saying that people were ready to volunteer, ready to work with the trustees.
But as you can from my video accompanying this post, underlying tensions remain between some supporters and board members. PPL Librarian Karen Ricketson, who is also vice-president of the local AFSCME union, went into detail during her presentation how other areas of the library budget could be cut and ways to make up the shortfall. But when she asked the board president Roland Lockwood when he could get back to her about the alternate budget, he said he had no idea, not offering any time frame.
Two supporters in the crowd spoke up, asking why the board was being so negative.
Later on in the meeting Ricketson took exception to how a board member was categorizing her union. The member implied the union was a source of increased costs for PPL through its filing of grievances and the legal feels that ensued. Ricketson stated that the union had always preferred to work things out without the need for legal representation.
Board member John Prim snipped that all the union wanted to do was have everything given to it. Board President Roland Lockwood loudly rapped his gavel, ending the heated exchange. He empathically stated he would brook no arguments.
Plattsburgh residents Stuart Voss, Russell Puschak, and Amy Bonn spoke to the board, trying to keep things positive, offering suggestions in how to deal with the budget train wreck.
Former city councilor Voss said that while there was a 2 per cent tax cap, other communities went over that cap when needed.
Plattsburgh Middle School teacher/librarian Puschak cited the example of the Glens Falls - Queensberry area that created a special funding district for its library. Maybe some time in the future, he said, a similar arrangement could be made with Plattsburgh Town.
But for all the openness and willingness to work together, the board remained generally cool, it didn't return the positive vibes. Amy Bonn, advocate of an ad hoc committee to look at the library budget again, had to press the trustees a bit to get someone to say they would respond within five days. Bonn and other supporters didn't expect an immediate response from the board or even one in twelve hours. But they never expected the board to provide no time table at all.
Supporters stressed the need to take action because there was one month left to find other answers to the problem. Jobs might be saved. While the board made recommendations to eliminate positions, the city Common Council had the final say and wouldn't finalize its budget until next month.
From what I've seen from its last two meetings, I get the impression the PPL Board of Trustees is in a time stream that moves at a different rate than the rest of the world.