published Sunday, May 1st, 2011

City, Collegedale discuss library ownership


by Cliff Hightower

Mayor Ron Littlefield has approached his Collegedale counterpart about taking over the only branch of the public library outside Chattanooga.

Collegedale Mayor John Turner said he has had preliminary talks with Littlefield.

“He has mentioned it to us,” Turner said. “He just mentioned that might be a possibility.”

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library is one of the jointly funded agencies that will be affected when the 45-year-old sales tax agreement between Chattanooga and Hamilton County expires May 23.

About $10.5 million in sales tax revenue that the county had used to help fund a variety of agencies will go to the city. County Mayor Jim Coppinger has said the county will not put up any more money for most agencies formerly funded under the agreement.

Littlefield has said the city will support library branches inside the Chattanooga limits.

Collegedale officials are worried the Ooltewah-Collegedale branch could shut down if the town cannot afford to keep it open, Turner said.

“The library branch out here is a critical part of our community,” he said.

Littlefield spokesman Richard Beeland said Friday there has been no discussion of closing the branch.

He said Collegedale could pay the library system a fee to operate the branch or take it over.

“It’s up to the level of participation they want to give,” Beeland said.

Turner said Collegedale officials need more information.

“We don’t know if we can take it on because we don’t know how much it’s going to cost,” he said.

Library officials could not provide operational figures Friday.

Turner said the town needs answers before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

He said Collegedale would be open to any kind of partnership Hamilton County could offer, but he also knows the financial strains the county is experiencing right now.

“I’m not counting on it,” he said.

Library board Chairman David Turner said he has not been privy to any of the negotiations, but he said he doesn’t believe the Collegedale branch will close, whatever happens.

“I think that will not happen,” he said. “I can’t imagine that happening.”

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