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Morris Public Library asks for staffing increase for 2014

MORRIS -- The Morris Public Library needs more staff members to keep services at their current level, Morris Public Library Director Melissa Yauk told the Morris City Council on Tuesday.

Yauk said that when she was hired five years ago, she was asked to increase library programming, which has happened. Over that same time, the existing staff members have evolved to meet the changing needs of the library.

Right now, the library currently has 4.25 employees. Yauk and the Morris Public Library Board would like to increase staff to six people. One of the new staff members would be hired to do more work with technology training.

“I would like to see more effort made in programming and offering training and doing more with the community,” said Yauk.

Mayor Sheldon Giese asked whether the library had looked at working with students from the University of Minnesota, Morris.

The library does have many volunteers who help with projects, Yauk said. Members with the Friends of the Library come in on Saturday’s to help with computer basics classes.

Others help with the library’s home delivery service for individuals who can’t come to the library. UMM students help with weekly story time and have come to the library to do cleaning and other projects.

Council member Brian Solvie asked whether the library had considered cutting back hours to work better with the existing number of staff. Currently, the library is open 54 hours per week including days, evenings and Saturdays.

“You do limit a little bit of your services, but you do concentrate better services during the time you are open,” said Solvie.

Yauk said she had brought that request to the library board after the library lost a federally-funded position last year. A survey of the community indicated that patrons did not want to see limited hours or lose library hours in the evenings.

City Manager Blaine Hill told the council that the budget guidance he provided to the council earlier this year included maintaining staff with normal growth for wage and benefit increases.

“This just epitomizes what the issue is in small towns – services versus the resources you have available to pay for them,” said Hill.

In the preliminary budget and memo levy that Hill provided to the council in September, Hill noted that the library budget presented a challenge. In addition to the request for more staff, the library building needs about $85,000 for building repairs.

He wrote, “My city manager recommendation to leave all the current employees the same and add one part-time, 2-hour per week employee still results in a deficit of $63,765. … I believe the workforce will need to be kept at the same level to balance their budget. Any increase in work force is an ongoing, year after year expense.”

A final decision about the city’s 2014 budget, including the request from the library board, will take place at a public hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.

Other business

  • The council authorized the city to solicit statements of qualifications for airport engineering firms. City Manager Blaine Hill said this is a requirement from the Federal Aviation Administration that needs to be completed every five years.
  • Morris’ main street is scheduled for a mill and overlay project in 2015 by the state of Minnesota. Hill told the council the project will include new handicapped sidewalk crossings and new street lights with sensors that will help more traffic more efficiently. The local share of the project is about $250,000, which the city can pay for using state aid highway funds.
  • The city council will review and approve the 2014 city budget at their next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10. The regular meeting will begin at 5:15 p.m., with a budget review and discussion at 6 p.m.

Disclosure: Editor Kim Ukura is a member of the Morris Public Library Board.