County Supervisors Disagree on Library Funding


Diana Rosapepe, Library Director, prepared a video for Tuesday’s Roanoke County Board of Supervisors meeting depicting the depressed state of the Glenvar library. The cost estimate for the new 15,000 square foot library is million. Assistant County Administrator Dawn Hyatt confirmed that there was enough money in the capital reserve to cover the cost.

After viewing the video, Vice-Chair Ed Elswick said he “was appalled” at the conditions at the Glenvar library.  In comparing the extravagance of the planned South Roanoke library, Elswick said, “we need to be equitable in how we spread the money around.”

Supervisor Mike Altizer, while voting “no,” commented that the same staff recommending the new library had just recently lamented about what a bad budget year it’s going to be.

“We cut capital; now we’re spending $6 million capital,” complained Altizer. He wanted to wait another year to gauge the economic outlook.

Supervisor Richard Flora also voted “no” saying, “We’re cutting staff … not spending money on public safety … the timing is just not right.”

Chairman Joe “Butch” Church said, “Glenvar has watched $30 or $40 million of improvements elsewhere … the time is here – the time is now.” Funds for the library project have been used to balance the budget in the past.

Supervisor Charlotte Moore followed, saying “a picture is worth a thousand words – the citizens need a place to go.”

Elswick countered Altizer’s comment insisting that the library is “one of those basic things – we’ve done things that are not basic. Libraries are basic . . . We should spread the money around.”

Church, in his closing comment, raised the ire of Altizer. Church said the reason the library was not done years ago was “because there is a different makeup on this board [now] … all it takes is one extra vote to stand up for an area.” He thanked Moore and Elswick for their courage and integrity.

The Glenvar library construction passed 3-2 with Moore, Church and Elswick voting “yes.”

Altizer waited until the end of the meeting to take exception to Church’s comment. He suggested Church was questioning the integrity of the two board members that voted against construction of the Glenvar library. It was quickly defused with cordial explanations.

In other business:

The board voted unanimously to decline grant funds for a wetlands walking trail at the South County library site, opting instead to fund the trail with available bond proceeds. The $77,700 grant from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation was perceived to have too many strings attached on future land usage. Flora remarked that the wetland could dry up with improvements in Merriman Road, leaving them unable to use the land for something else.

Several county citizens spoke on the contemplated restrictions on board meeting room usage by political parties and other county citizens. Most speakers had attended the Republican mass meeting on April 15 that added to the board’s concern over room abuse.

Roanoke County Republican Chair Mike Bailey and other speakers objected to barring use of the room by county taxpaying citizens, asking the board not to penalize all the citizens for the misbehavior of a few. The usage options were planned for discussion in the work session that followed.

In the work session, it was the consensus of the board to draft logical and practical guidelines for the board meeting room use policy. Another work session to discuss the draft of the guidelines will take place following the 3:00 p.m. meeting on June 22. A public hearing will then be held at the next board meeting.

In other business in the work session:

The board reviewed a written opinion of consultant Juliet White, Senior Vice President with Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA, Inc. White recommended that “the County should hold anywhere from $5.2 to $6 million in its health insurance reserve for next year.” After comparing the outside consultant’s projections with county finance staff projections, it was the consensus of the board to move $900,000 held in the health insurance reserves to the general fund unappropriated fund balance and $900,000 to the minor capital account.

By Valerie Garner
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