City Attorney Favre to meet with County Attorney Yarborough to hash out Library Inter-local

Those that watched the live stream of last week’s Bay City Council meeting already knew the score. The rest got the usual comprehensive account from Cassandra Favre over at the Echo. Using Cassandra as our primary source let’s imagine we’re a fly on the wall when the City Attorney meets the County Attorney and we get to hear Trent Favre’s talking points, as told by City officials at the last meeting:

“I don’t believe we need to fix something that’s not broke”…

“We have a bigger stake in this,” he said. “The county made mention that they had three libraries out there. Well, their three libraries look like little mom and pop shops. We got super Walmart.

“There’s no reason to fix something that’s not broken,” he said. “We have something that’s very successful.”

“I don’t think there’s a reason to create a new five-member board on Oct. 1,” Hoffman said. “I personally don’t want to see a reinvention of this library system. I want to see it continue on as it is. If they need a new agreement to make themselves happy, I guess I can understand that. The old one was written some time ago and was a little outdated as far as from a legal standpoint. That one still holds water in my book. The two cities never opted out of this agreement, only the county did. As far as we are concerned, this agreement is still in place.”

“When you decide what you want to give us, we will make our budget work,” she said. “We will tighten the belt if necessary. I know that we have the highest per capita funding. You’re getting bang for your buck. You are the best library system in the state. We will continue to work with whatever funding we get.”

That ought to convince the Sups right? As for Ms. Thomas’s boasting in the last quote, she must not have ever been to the Hattiesburg library or the one on the campus of Southern Miss. which happens to be the largest University library in the state.

I know this from personal experience, when we went hunting for an old archival Sun Herald article from the 1990s it was no where to be found in the Bay. The larger, nicer libraries in Harrison County gave us the hook up we needed to help our friends over in NOLA.

Finally if I lived in Poplarville, I’d be traveling the 43 minutes to Hattiesburg on the interstate instead of the 57 minutes to the Bay on a two lane road but that is just me. Stay tuned.

32 thoughts on “City Attorney Favre to meet with County Attorney Yarborough to hash out Library Inter-local”

    1. My guess after observing the Bay Council in person at their meeting last Tues. is they are going to opt out of the new Inter Local agreement with the Supers. I would say the vote is going to go: For opting out:
      Seal, Hoffman, Smith, and Zimmerman. Staying with
      the Supers: Knoblock and DeSalvo. The two in the minority seem to understand they can’t find funds for the Bay Branch in the budget they
      are currently putting together.
      Hope my 5 in Waveland understand the math!!!!!!!!

  1. It seems to be a simple thing. Single source funding. Municipalities are paying twice. Who does not understand this?
    This is not cart and wagon days. People can get to the library. They get everywhere else. The number of libraries and times open should be the question along with single source funding to get a sustainable budget.
    We cannot source every need of every person, especially not their wants!

    1. Mr. Rod, you’re correct.. think twice, pay once…. I smell finally a class action suit by citizens!!! Read where Mayor Schafer and his Council spoke out about this, “we will help wherever we can BUT we’re NOT PAYING TWICE!!! BSL Council needs to suck it up and take care of home first!!!!

    1. Trixie,
      We are all levied a certain amount of mils to support the Library System by the Supervisors county wide.
      What Rod is objecting to is the city dwellers are then levied again by their city councils on top of what the Supers levy against us.
      If you live in an unincorporated area of the county, you pay the county millage. Live in one of the cities and your city is in the inter local agreement, you pay city too!
      Diamondhead told Supers when they incorporated they weren’t getting involved in the inter local and would just continue to support the Libraries as they had all those years with their county millage. They did give $20,000 out of their budget to assist in funding.
      What is overlooked is the fact that anyone can go to any
      library in the county any time they want–no one checking residences at the door.
      So, our neighbors in the county who pay only county millage can come on down and enjoy our facilities too and vice versa– we can use theirs.

  2. I apologize for the length of this comment – I wrote it last year as a post for a D’head Facebook page, but it’s a history of the library system plus some facts that I think are worth keeping in mind:

    Though named the Hancock County Library System, ours has always been a city-county system, chartered as such from its inception as a public library in the 60’s when its name was City-County Public Library. Prior to that, while it was privately funded, the city and county had begun working together to help ensure its services as early as 1933 when Mrs. Louise Crawford opened the Bay St. Louis City-County Library on Hancock Bank’s second floor. The city donated a stove, fuel, rug, partial funding for an encyclopedia, and a janitor while the county provided lumber, general supplies, and workmen to build the shelves. Claims today that the county should do all the funding because it’s a county system are simply mistaken.

    Over the years, the system earned an outstanding reputation, numerous awards for excellence, wide recognition for service and innovation, and the love and pride of Hancock County citizens who have long appreciated its many services and achievements and have viewed it as an essential asset. That essentialness was never more apparent than in the awful days following Katrina.

    With Waveland and Pearlington branches totally wiped out, Bay and Kiln branches heavily damaged, a third of the system’s collection lost, a third of its staff still gone, and $6 million in damages to contend with, the system nevertheless got the Kiln branch open two weeks after the storm and the Bay branch about six weeks later. Mondays through Saturdays they offered satellite phones, laptops, free internet service, copying and fax machines, clean restrooms, air conditioning, disaster recovery info, and later tax forms, tax assistance, and electronic filing in addition to regular library services. They also helped house a long list of agencies like the Food Pantry, SBA, Corps of Engineers, mental health counselors, etc.. Services provided at the two libraries were a lifeline for thousands of exhausted, trauma-stricken Hancock Countians and the volunteers who came to help us.

    Four years later in 2009, Hartzell-Mika, a library consulting firm from Michigan, did a study for the system. Their report concluded that with four locations to operate, it was stretched to the max and would need more staff and resources as the two destroyed facilities were rebuilt and remodeled. (Pearlington and Waveland branches did not reopen until 2011.) Noting that there was discussion of a fifth location at Diamondhead, the consultants warned:

    “. . .the current Hancock County Library System operational budget will be strained to support five branch libraries. The additional staffing needed and the extra costs of collections, supplies, utilities, maintenance, etc., will force reductions in other areas of the Library System’s operations. Additional funding should be sought for operational costs before an East Hancock County Library is built. There is a need for a carefully devised policy on any type of expansion to, or addition of, facilities.”

    However, the county had developed a wish list of buildings they hoped to construct with federal CDBG funding. A library building for Diamondhead was included and, though far down the list, over time it gradually worked up to the top. In 2013, with neither the recommended studies done nor firm plans for operational support, the facility was built at its present location on county-owned land. The East Hancock branch opened without the needed increase in funds to the system for running it, and by means of the system’s stretching its available resources very thinly.

    The argument that cities in the county should not be taxed twice for the same service that the county residents get out of their county tax does not make sense to me. Clearly county residents do not get the same service from their county tax. Except for those living near a branch, county residents have to drive greater distances to use the branches or plan to use them when in the area for other purposes and the collections available to them are far smaller. In short they have less access to service and more inconvenience than city residents. By contributing to their library branches through city and county taxes, city residents get easier access, better services, and an important part of their identity as an educated, literate community.

    Library Use at Each Branch in FY 2015 (E. Hancock was open for entire FY 2015)

    Visitors Items checked Computer Reference questions
    out users answered

    BSL 10,000 67,361 27,000 27,344
    Wave. 4,000 20,949 4,646 7,357
    Kiln 2,900 30,355 6,800 7,400
    Pearl. 2,600 4,374 1,800 1,300
    E. Hanc. 2,600 24,000 3,800 4,600

    1. Sorry, the figure headings are out of whack. In order from left to right they are Visitors, Items checked out, Computer users, and Reference questions answered.

      1. Peggy that was a great history lesson. According to the research Eddie Favre put together a County the size of Hancock County should have 2 to 3 locations. Unfortunately the last Board of Sups liked all that “free” Katrina money a little too much for our own good.

        Given the fragmented nature of the how Mississippi governs at the local level I see the library inter-local agreement as a type of grand compromise, where all the local governments share some of the costs with the end product being greater than the sum of the parts if everyone went it alone with separate systems.

        I am hearing there is political momentum for the Bay to pull out and go it alone. I would hope before that vote is taken the Administration and Council shoot straight with the locals on how much it will cost.

        BSL taking Exec. Director Thomas and all her administrators with her would be the biggest favor the City could do the County here IMHO.

        1. Thanks, Doug. I think Eddie’s research is correct as it dovetails with the Hartnell-Mika study. We know the E. Hancock branch should never have happened – combined users for Kiln and E. Hanc. branches are only around 5,500 and drive time from D’head to the Kiln is only 11 – 14 minutes depending on route. Pearlington was a stretch for the system but that happened in the 90’s when, as I wrote elsewhere, the county’s population increased 35.3%, per capita personal income rose from $13,285 to $22,233, and there was a shared belief by residents, businesses, and elected officials that an excellent library system serving as many people as possible was a worthy asset and economic development tool for a county containing Stennis Space Center, good schools, and the third fastest growing population in the state. On a personal note, I was teaching in Pearlington when the library opened in the school and have never seen such a wonderful thing as the way that community loved it. They cherished — still do, I’m sure — every single thing about having that beautiful small branch in their own beloved school.

          For a lot of reasons those glory days of the 90’s are gone, of course, but I would sure hate to see the break-up of the city-county system. A huge number of BSL and Waveland individuals,families, and businesses have contributed a whole lot of money, time, and effort to building that system. I fervently hope the system, county, and cities can come to mutually agreeable terms for everyone’s sake. Though it wasn’t the current Sups, it was still the county that helped create the problems in the first place, and pulling out of the agreement on its own plus insisting on having a board majority is, IMO, a rather ham-fisted approach, given both the history and the user numbers.

              1. If raising taxes is the answer raise it county wide not just Bay Saint Louis. Let them her from every body.
                The BSL Zip Code is 39520. They use this to demograph the users. This Zip Code is widely used in the lower part of Hancock County. Poor method of user accuracy.

    2. Peggy,
      At last night’s Council workshop in the Bay, which I watched remotely, Library Director, Courtney Thomas, stated to the Council a much higher visitor number for this year so far.
      She said there have been 82,000 in the Bay
      36,000 in Waveland
      I don’t know where these people are parking, especially in Waveland. We only have a little over 6,400 residents in the city right now.
      I have also been giving some thought to Courtney and Stephanie McConnel’s objection to the section of the new Inter Local Agreement that gives the elected officials authority to appoint their own representatives to the Library Board. These two ladies registered a strong objection to this and strong support for the Library Board to select who would replace members whose terms expire.
      It just occurred to me that Courtney has never raised an objection to the elected officials in the Bay appointing her Mother to the School Board. Perhaps she considers that action by the Bay officials a moment of profound genius. But they don’t have what it takes to appoint a Library Board???!!!
      I just spoke to a former member of the Long Beach Board of Aldermen, and asked him how they operate their City Library since it is not a part of the Harrison County Library System.
      He said the City’s contribution is enough millage for 4 employees at the Library. The rest of the Library budget revenue is grants, and the Aldermen appoint the Long Beach Library Board.
      There’s some food for thought for the Bay if they aren’t happy with the new County
      Inter Local Agreement.
      The Council can make room in their budget for a top notch grant writer, and bump up taxes for the rest.

      1. the BSL Count is up because the use the 39520 zip which covers a large part of the county.

        When ever you give money you need to have a voice at the table.

      2. Those are some massively higher numbers! I know you guys have the biggest increase in population anywhere near here but those are still crazy-out-of-line with just two years ago. If they’ve had that many visitors, they need to fully explain where they are coming from so there are no misunderstandings, deliberate or otherwise. As I just put on FB re some of our D’head spokespersons: Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. –Albert Einstein

  3. Peggy,
    I don’t think the citizens who support County authority over the millage for the library budget are trying to dodge their financial support of this most important service to the citizens of Hancock County. They just want the funding streamlined to assure that all pay fairly to achieve that goal.
    As far as services, in my opinion, these could be shared by all of the branches. Let everyone do some traveling. These decisions are made by the Director and Board.
    Have the Authors and Characters Luncheon at a different branch each month. Have the Christmas Tree Gala at a different branch each year. Let the county residents see ALL of the facilities they are funding.
    Libraries are up against it too. No one really needs to go to a library anymore to research anything, so they have had to become centers for community activities, and they are doing a nice job of that.
    The problem currently seems to be that anyone who may possibly disagree with the Library Board or Director is somehow a terrible person who is not supportive of them as an entity. Got to get over that. While we are feeding you, we get to express our views. That does not necessarily translate to non support. Childish attitude.
    This Board of Supervisors has inherited this and many other headaches from the previous Board, many!
    Some taxpayers just feel that a more streamlined system of funding would be better and equally shared by all in the county. Not looking to pay less, just looking to pay equally across the board as long as all branches are open to all.
    Your point of over building after Katrina is spot on. We just had some lack luster public officials at that time, and now we are paying the piper for their decisions.

    1. Lana,
      I have no doubt that Bay and Waveland citizens fully support financial responsibility for the library system. They always have done so to a magnificent degree, and so have county residents: I’ve already mentioned the Bay, Waveland, and Pearlington but need to add that the work, contributions, and moral support provided by Kiln residents for their new, full service building in the 90’s was awesome. But where we stand today is in a new place, trying to figure out what degree of support is possible and desirable by all of us, city or county, and how to apportion it fairly.

      I have difficulty thinking that paying equally across the board is a fair apportionment of support, though I may be misunderstanding your position so please correct me if so. Spreading services around to all the branches sounds like an excellent idea to me, but even if done, it’s still a lot more convenient for Bay and Waveland residents to access a considerably greater array of library resources than for most other residents of the county. (Diamondhead, too, has easy access but since we don’t contribute anywhere near close to you guys, we’ve got a pitifully teensy collection and minuscule resources. This is no reflection on our wonderful staff who do all they can in the way of service.)

      It’s also hard for me to agree that no one really needs to go to a library any more to do research. The figures I posted are hard to make out, but a quite substantial total of 44,046 uses of library computers were made in 2015. Not everyone has the kind of access to computers and data usage time as those of us who comment here.

      I haven’t seen instances where disagreement with the library board or director led to accusations of being a terrible person who doesn’t support the system, but if that’s the case, I should stop. For all the entities involved, making the system work well for everyone (taxpayers, library users, and those of us who are in real need) has been an admirable goal in this county for just 13 short of 100 years now. I hope that together we can keep up that achievement for a very long time to come.

      1. If you don’t believe my account of the harsh language and accusations levied against the Supervisors by Stephanie McConnell, her Board and supporters, do a Public Records Request for the tape of the Aug. 8, meeting of the Bay City Council. Pop some corn and enjoy the verbal attacks allowed by Council Pres. Doug Seal. As one citizen in the audience told me” I think the Chairman has lost control of the meeting!”
        No, he relinquished control
        to this group who want to be thought of as professionals!!

        1. Sorry to hear it’s gotten that way. I haven’t attended any of the meetings. I do know that things got poisoned early on when the system closed E. Hancock then grew worse when LS&S were contacted without word to the system. The library board, as is their responsibility, is loyal to the system; it’s not helpful if harsh words were said but I’m not surprised or shocked that their zeal for advocacy has been boosted by the county’s, I’ll say it again, ham-fisted approach to the problem. Wish we had a good negotiator to sit down with all of them and get us to a win on all sides.

    2. Excellent Ms. Lana! I hope Supers continue on fiscal but better service path: Hancock County Library System, Hancock County Building Dept. Services plus Hancock County Fire Prevention Services!!!! Ma’am that’s fiscal services with an eye on education, economic development and lower insurance rates to benefit all….. this County needs to be put on the right path not patronage….????

  4. The visitors listed for the Bay are coming from all over Hancock and Harrison county. The list that they claim to be users from the Bay is going by people with Bay St. Louis zip codes, which covers an enormous amount of the unincorporated areas.

    1. The most automobiles I ever see parked at the Waveland branch are in the back. I assume they are employees and volunteers.

  5. Diamondhead wants in.
    Just left the Diamondhead City Council meeting and they passed a unanimous motion to contact Board of Supervisors to be a part of tbe new Hancock County Library System Inter Local Agreement.
    On to Waveland tomorrow night for their decision!!

    1. Oops!!
      Clarification here.
      We were mislead. Councilwoman Nancy Depreo neglected to clarify to her constituents and the audience at last night’s Diamondhead City meeting that the $243,000 in millage coming from Diamondhead property owners is their county portion of support to the Hancock County Library System.
      They still do not levy a city tax for Library support.
      Ms. Depreo and I had a brief email exchange last night, and she can’t understand why she can’t convince me that Diamondhead deserves a ” seat at the table” on the new Hancock County Inter Local Agreement Board.
      It’s simple. For 26 years under the current inter local agreement Bay St. Louis and Waveland property owners have paid County and city taxes to support the Library System. That is how we have a ” seat” ( which is really a VOTE) at the table.
      Diamondhead Council objects to paying at the city level because they claim the Library in Diamondhead belongs to the county. It does.
      So do the ones in Pearlington, Kiln, and Bay St. Louis. All the deeds on those buildings are in the county’s name.
      Waveland is the only entity that owns its building.
      If Diamondhead can operate their library without being a full participant in the inter local agreement with the other two cities and the county, good for them. Personally I doubt it.
      We’ll see if they vote at their next meeting to kick their city share like the rest of us for that seat ( VOTE)!

      1. Ms Lana normally we agree but??? I believe Nancy’s right… Diamondhead citizens pay millage also! What’s wrong with two reps from Supers, one from Waveland, BSL and Diamondhead. Set millage across county: done!!! Everybody shares EQUALLY with funds, representation and operations. Then get city can give any extra they want……. simple

        1. Fact,
          I didn’t say Diamondhead citizens weren’t paying millage. They are just paying at the county level ONLY while the Bay and Waveland do that PLUS levy at the city level for support of the library system.
          Currently Diamondhead wants a vote at the table but they want to leave their checkbook in the car. They won’t commit to a city millage like the other cities in the county. Frankly I don’t care how I pay. I want to support the library system. It is a vital part of our communities.
          If the county wants to bill me for all my millage support at the county level, fine. If they split it up between city and county, fine. But I am not going to pay more than another entity and they get the same representation as I do on the Board.
          If Diamondhead wants a piece of the action, they’ll have to put the same amount of skin in the game as the rest of us.
          I’ll just turn the question around and ask “why should 2 of the cities pay more and the one that pays less get the same representation?”
          And, if Diamondhead wants to run their own library with their own money, great. That is what Long Beach does. The Long Beach Library is not a part of the Harrison County Library System. It was founded in 1895, and has been operated as a city library with city millage and grants 122 years. I have taken my grandchildren there many times for summer reading and crafts. They do a great job. More than one way to skin a cat.

          1. I don’t have the latest library budget performance figures, but based on those of 2 years ago each of the three cities produced enough revenue via the county’s millage to theoretically pay for 81% to 85% of their operational expenses. I’m guessing that this is the premise from which some on the council are concluding that we pay a fair share to have a seat on the board. The Bay and Waveland, of course, collect their own millage producing enough to fill up the rest of the gap in operational expenses and provide whatever extras they want. Diamondhead’s gap, on the other hand, has to be filled with additional county money before we even reach the keep-the-doors-open level. As much as I’d love to see Diamondhead at the table, we’re not contributing to the same degree as the other cities and so are not really entitled to the same position they have. Except for the $20k our council has contributed in recent years, we’re in no different position than Kiln and Pearlington. That’s the part of the picture I don’t think our council is seeing right now.

              1. That was definitely the mayor’s position, and he has opposed library contributions before. Kodie Koennen, 4th ward councilman, was very supportive of the library at the candidates forum before the election, but I don’t know about the others. We’ve all been learning to our surprise/shock about the fairly deep deficit hole the city’s in (after several years of surpluses) as it works its way through the new budget, but I fervently hope this new council that many of us fought hard to get is not so short sighted as to eliminate even the small contribution that the previous council was making. In general, the feeling I get, FWIW, is that many women and younger families favor city support of the library to at least a reasonable degree. The ones against it seem to me to be the older men, possibly because they don’t use it much compared to the other demographic groups. There’s also the fact that the rise in cost of living, unlike what was promised at the outset, that resulted from adding incorporation of the city on top of the POA, has soured many about a wide variety of expenditures by both entities.

  6. It seems to be incomprehinsible to some people that municipalities are paying twice! We have higher county taxes than county people because they have discounts on large property owners. They also get a lot of free improvements to their land when they develop it. One being culverts to access their property on the backs of the tax payer. Municipalities do not do this. They are also sheltered under agricultural land ownership while they hold it their taxes are reduced to nearly a fraction. Then we pay more for our garbage fees to accommodate them. They are spread out and costly!

    Lower taxes higher costs to maintain and want us to pay twice!

    That ain’t viable!

    1. Garbage?! At Waveland’s meeting last night, Solid Waste Chairman, Ward I Alderman, Jeremy Burke, announced a $.33 a month increase from Solid Waste for garbage pick up.
      The contractor that picks up the garbage went up, so it gets passed on to us.
      Waveland’s utilities are so high now until it is ridiculous.
      Our last bill for two people was $89.35. I would say it is summertime and we are watering the garden, but we all know with all of this rain, that’s not the case. Two years ago our bill averaged $81.00 a month. It seems to be a continuing spiral upward! How do people with families survive?!

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