Mayor Maddox Recommends Helping Save Tuscaloosa Public Library
Mayor Walt Maddox asked the city council to consider casting a multi-million life-saver to the Tuscaloosa Public Library amid ongoing concerns about how long it can operate without increased funding.
In late October, leaders at the Library were clear -- several cuts have already been made to hours of operations and services offered at the library, and its two auxiliary branches are in real danger of closing without more money.
Maddox pledged in November to study the issue and make a recommendation about how to move forward, which he did in a Tuesday meeting of the council's finance committee.
Maddox is recommending the city partner with the Tuscaloosa County Commission and the Northport City Council to provide around $5 million for urgently needed repairs and maintenance to the roof of the main branch of the Library on Jack Warner Parkway.
Under his recommendation, the city of Tuscaloosa would shoulder a portion of the cost equivalent to its portion of the county's total population -- 44 percent, or around $2.2 million.
The County Commission will be asked to provide 42 percent of the costs, or $2.1 million, and the city of Northport will be asked to provide 14 percent, the final $700,000.
The partnership of the other governments should be a requirement for the city's $2.2 million contribution, Maddox said.
"I think we'll be able to achieve this," Maddox said, "The county has always been hand-in-hand with us about the library, we just need to get the discussion started."
Maddox also recommended that the city should fund the actual operating costs of the Weaver-Bolden Library branch, which is located inside West Tuscaloosa's McKenzie Courts housing development.
Maddox said the city should consider taking the burden of operating that community library off the TPL organization -- the city already does something similar and pays for the operation of the Tuscaloosa Tennis Center instead of asking the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority to shoulder those costs, he said.
That expense would be around $325,000 this fiscal year, Maddox said.
The Finance Committee did not take any action on the matter Tuesday, but said they would expediate discussion of and a vote on the matter.
"We'll get you back quickly, a week or two," councilman Lee Busby asked.
But Busby and other council members also asked leadership at the library to come prepared with a frank presentation about the library's financial health and metrics about its usage in the community. Even if the city provides all the funding Maddox recommended Tuesday, the library will have long-term funding needs that the council must understand before moving forward.