January 31, 2013

Old Orchard councilors vote to give library money, control

The allocation of $68,591 will enable Old Orchard's public library to extend its hours and avoid layoffs.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The Old Orchard Beach Town Council voted Wednesday to give the Libby Memorial Library additional money and the financial control that the town took from the library's trustees last year in response to an embezzlement.

click image to enlarge

The Libby Memorial Library in Old Orchard Beach is asking patrons to bring back all leant materials by May 9 because of the possibility of the library closing. Photographed on Wednesday, May 2, 2012.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

The library's director and board of trustees told town councilors earlier this month that the public library was in danger of closing without an immediate infusion of cash to carry it through this fiscal year.

By a 4-2 vote, councilors allocated $68,591 to the library and dissolved the memorandum of understanding that had been in effect since town and library officials learned that the late Linda Jenkins had embezzled $140,000 over a six-year period when she was the library's bookkeeper.

Councilors Robin Dayton and Michael Coleman voted against both steps. Councilor Robert Quinn was not at the meeting.

After the embezzlement was reported last spring, the town and the library's board signed the memorandum to authorize the town to process payroll and accounts payable for the library. Library employees remained under the control of the trustees.

The library is a private organization that is funded by the town.

Library Director Lee Koenigs said Thursday that she is relieved the council allocated additional money to cover basic expenses and dissolved the memorandum of understanding, which she said had "very little meaning or effect."

She said she is preparing to order books for the first time in two months, as well as supplies such as printer ink and tape.

"It has been a really long, really unpleasant, nightmarish 10 months," Koenigs said. "Hopefully, we can leave that behind and move forward."

Without the additional money, Koenigs said, she would have had to lay off employees or reduce library hours. Instead, she plans to extend hours on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

"If this didn't happen, there would have been some drastic changes," she said. "The councilors who voted for this have done such a service for their community."

Coleman, who opposed dissolving the memorandum of understanding, said he remains concerned about the library's ability to handle its finances without additional oversight from the town.

Coleman said he would have supported giving the library more money if the memorandum had remained.

"I think they do a great job providing library services, but I'm not so confident on their financial ability," he said. "I don't want to see the library fail, but I also took an oath to oversee taxpayers' money."

Koenigs said the library is soliciting bids for a payroll company. She is also looking ahead to an expansion of the library that has been approved by voters but not gone through the bonding and bidding process.

In 2011, voters approved a $2 million bond for the expansion and the library raised $250,000 for the project.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

Twitter: grahamgillian

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