Tuscaloosa County Commission Hears Plans for Tuscaloosa Public Library’s New Operating Budget
The Tuscaloosa County Commission approved several projects at their regular meeting Wednesday and heard a pitch concerning short- and long-term funding for the Tuscaloosa Public Library.
TPL relies on funding from the city of Tuscaloosa, the County Commission and from Northport.
Attorney Bryan Winter, who sits on the Board of Trustees for TPL, asked the county commission Wednesday to consider returning their funding of the library to the levels set in Fiscal Year 2020 -- the county decreased all outside agency funding in Fiscal Year 2021 to offset losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission gave TPL $1,308,000 in 2020 and $1,236,000 in 2021.
Representatives for the library have also already appeared before the City of Tuscaloosa and requested $1.47 million for Fiscal Year 2022, up $180,000 from the funding they received in 2021.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is expected to make his City budget proposal to the City Council next Tuesday, including recommendations for funding of more than 40 outside organizations.
Both cities and the county commission will adopt their budgets before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.
Winter and the commission also talked at length about making the Library more accessible to the more rural areas of Tuscaloosa County.
"We have a library that's in downtown," Winter said. "It's highly accessible to people who live in this area, and it's highly accessible for the people who live in Northport."
Winter and the commission discussed installing library lockers at volunteer fire departments and other sites outside of the major municipalities so residents of rural areas can also benefit from TPL.
Winter also spoke more about future plans for the library, including the eventual relocation of their children's sections into the Saban Center, where they will house material for students of all ages. Winter said ideally, the new space would include what he called "Maker Stations," specialty spaces that will allow patrons to hone crafts in everything from arts to genealogy to coding.
As for the main branch, Winter said the space would be renovated into a center dedicated to improving adult literacy and workforce development.
"There's a huge amount of people in the area who simply can't read, and we can't take that for granted," Winter said.
The total cost of those projects is expected to exceed $30 million, and the three government bodies are already looking at how to help fund them over the next few years.
In other action, the Commission then awarded a bid for the relocation of the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office patrol service, which currently resides in the Tuscaloosa National Airport.
In late 2020, the Sheriff's Office acquired a plot of land on 35th Street near its Public Works facility with the intention to move the patrol service there in the near future.
The bid went to Metal Roofing Solutions, and the expected turnaround time for the project is 210 days. The total cost for materials and assembly for the site is $2.1 million.
Additionally, the Commission approved the donation of a surplus Automative External Defibrillator to Northside High School Athletics. District 1 Commissioner Stan Acker said this would allow Northside to use it when necessary on the field for youth programs.
"They're re-certified. The Sheriff's Office did all that, get them in working order" Acker said. "There's no reason to have them sit there. We can put them back out into the community."
Acker's recommendation is the latest effort to disperse life-saving devices to organizations throughout Tuscaloosa County, thanks to reimbursable funds through the federal CARES Act allowing the County Commission to purchase several AED's.