Use It or Lose It
By Anne McKay Garris
Even as the citizens of Clearwater Beach draw a sigh of relief that the inclination of the Clearwater City Council, so far, is to keep both the Beach Branch Library and the Beach Recreation Center, they are aware that the message is, "Use it or lose it" in the future.
At Thursday evening's Council meeting the council members expressed a consensus for keeping both Beach facilities open by combining the two at the recreation center site with one fulltime staff member in the library and a reduced staff at the recreation center. Another library staff member will be on hand during the middle of the day to provide back-up during lunch hours.
"Sharing a building with another facility will be a help for the library," said Clearwater's Head Librarian, Barbara Pickell. "We have worked all along towards combining the two facilities and working with the community will be a positive for all of us. We had been thinking along these lines and are pleased the citizens want to be a part of this and to supply volunteers."
Pickell added that she was glad that the library was going to have a permanent home. An addition at the north side of the building is already in the hands of an architect. Because of FEMA regulations, the city is only allowed to spend $325,000 on the addition without tearing down the building and building above the flood plain. This will limit the overall size of the library portion to about 1,400 square feet, about half the size of the current facility.
"But we are going to be careful to supply it with materials most often used by members of the Beach community," says Pickell. "We will have twice daily pickups and deliveries so that Beach patrons will have speedy access to all of the materials in the system. And we plan to add two more computers to be used by patrons."
Asked about keeping a library presence on the Beach during the estimated six months it will take to build the addition, Pickell reported that Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar believes some library activities can be temporarily accommodated in the recreation portion of the building.
Councilman Paul Gibson, who championed keeping both facilities with a great deal of citizen involvement, commented that he hoped that would be as much as possible. "I would like to see the recreation center and branch library utilized as much as possible," he commented.
Acknowledging that keeping the facilities would not have been possible if the State Legislators had not reduced the spending limits they were expected to impose local governments, Gibson warned that passage of the tax referendum in January could make a major difference in next year's spending and he hoped to see the Beach facility very busy with activities and programs and as economical as possible before that happened.
Clearwater Vice Mayor John Doran told your reporter he had been in favor of the combination idea since staff first proposed it. "We should be able to get a synergy involved," he said. "Anytime volunteers participate it is good for the city and good for the residents. He said his observation of last week's discussion by the Council makes him believe that all the council members support it and want to see it work.
Sheila Cole, spokesman for the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, reports that her organization is vocally, and actively in favor of this recent development and ready to assist in any way they can. Cole believes that the recreation center and library are important to tourists as well as residents.
The citizens committee for the Beach Branch Library is celebrating the Council's decision to leave the library and recreation center in the budget, for now, but are aware that the final vote on the budget is not until September. They are working diligently to keep their part of the plan; signing up volunteers to help with both the recreation center and the library, planning for advisory boards for both facilities and seeking ideas for library or recreation center programs.
"We are pleased that the Council has recognized that a library and recreation center are essential functions for a community," said Pat Power, spokesman for the Beach citizens who have been working to save both facilities. "We will continue to monitor what is going on."
Anyone wishing to volunteer, make suggestions for programs, or be on an advisory board for either facility, may do so by going on line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is also suggested that interested citizens mark August 13, at 6 p.m., on their calendar and plan to be at the Council's public hearing on the budget, to be held in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.
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