Moffat County Library feeling budget crunch

The Craig branch of the Moffat County Library had to close for two hours last week because of a lack of employees.

Library Director Donna Watkins said with a few employees out for personal reasons that day, the library did not have enough workers to run the library so it was forced to close.

Watkins said Feb. 18, the day the library had to close, is an example of how bad the situation has become at the library because of staff cut backs to stay within a tight budget.

The library has six full-time and one part-time employees.

In 1999, it had nine full-time employees and six part-time workers and was open seven days a week but two years ago the facility took a $120,000 hit to its budget.

The library is no longer open on Sundays and is open six less hours a week than it was four years ago.

Watkins said in a meeting this week that the 3 percent cut asked of all county departments this year worsened the situation at the library.

"The 3 percent cut this year hit us hard," she said. "That 3 percent cut meant the elimination of another part-time position."

Another concern expressed by Watkins was the new county employee compensation plan implemented this year.

The county is mandating that the library provide raises to its employees using a new compensation plan.

A line item of $10,000 was provided in this year's budget to the library for those raises but Watkins said giving employees raises is not the answer to the library's problems.

"Do we hire another person or give the employees pay raises?" she said.

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said she was unaware of the problems at the library.

"I haven't sat in this venue and heard these concerns from you," Raftopoulos told Watkins. "This is all news to me."

Both Watkins and Raftopoulos agreed that more communication between the library and county was necessary in the future.

But Donna Watkins' husband, Charlie Watkins, said there are problems at the library that need to be addressed and said those problems are not within the library or within the library board.

He said he has to volunteer his time at the library some days because of its staffing shortage.

"I have to run the front desk and that's a pitiful position for a community library to be in," he said.

He also had choice words for Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton, who has butted heads with the library board and library administrators in recent months.

"Les has been soliciting comments from people in the public who worked at the library in the past," Watkins said. "That kind of crap needs to stop. You need to let departments run their departments and do their own thing. My wife is not going to say anything but I can as a private citizen. We need to stop all the back biting that's going on."

Hampton corrected Watkins.

"I went out and contacted one person," he said.

But Watkins said how many people have been contacted didn't matter, and said the library board should be allowed to do its job.

But Hampton said that might be the problem.

"That's the question," Hampton said. "If the library board is doing its job."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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