Following the approval of the October board meetings minutes, Ash Flat Mayor Danny Traw spoke to the board requesting approval and support to move forward in establishing a library in Ash Flat. Traw was given permission by the board to begin securing grants and funding for the library. Traw agreed to sign a five year lease with the White River Regional Library Board to cement the deal.
Board President Jane Abele told Traw the board furnishes all interior furnishings and books to the library if the city furnishes the location and utilities. Traw asked about a possible partnership with Ozarka, but the answer was put on hold until research could be done about the partnership and its legal implications. Traw said the city already owns the 4,500 square foot facility and the cost of remodeling it would be significantly less than constructing a new building. Greg Bess offered to help the city with a grant through the North Central Arkansas Regional Economic Development group. Traw said, "We hope to give you plenty of opportunity to grow with us."
Following consideration of requests from the Cave City, Evening Shade and Hardy library branches, Marilyn Bischoff, an advocate for the Williford Library spoke to the board about the library.
Bischoff was concerned with Williford Librarian Tracey Ladd being told to put books back into the library by Regional Librarian Debra Sutterfield. Bischoff maintained that that was not part of her job duty. Bischoff said after the library's third round of floods in 2 years, the Oct. 30 flooding forced books to be moved from the library yet again. She was adamant that this could not continue and that the library needed an interim location while the new library is being constructed.
Bischoff asked the board to consider accepting the Fortuna's offer to allow the library to be temporarily housed near the new location in lieu of rent for a written in kind donation letter. The letter would insure the family they could take the donation off of their taxes as a charitable contribution. This, Bischoff said would insure the safety of the books. The board refused and said the responsibility should be for the city to sign the document. Sharp County Judge Larry Brown, who was in attendance at the meeting clarified that it didn't matter who signed it, it was just an in-kind donation form to be given to the Fortuna's tax preparer to enable them to take the deduction on their taxes. Brown said if the library or city wouldn't sign the letter, he would be glad to do so, because the library is a public entity in the county.
Bischoff outlined the new library wouldn't be the remodeled version that was discussed at the previous meeting, but rather a new 1,300 square foot facility. Bischoff helped secure a Stimulus Grant from the Federal Government for rural economic development. Bischoff was close friends with the late Glenna Garner whose dying wish was to insure a library stay within the small community of Williford. Bischoff has made it her goal to accomplish this and has worked hard to obtain the new library for the city.
She said of the organization that provided the $200,000 grant that was later supplemented by an additional $35,000 through the United States Department of Agriculture, "They must believe good libraries are vital to rural counties and their people." She went on to explain that the library will provide computers and Internet access to many who cannot afford these items. She said because it is a government grant, the process is likely to be slower, but she said, "I am as excited as I can be." The library will be located on Highway 62/412 near Paul Garner Real Estate. The library will more effectively serve the Ozark Acres and Williford communities as well as residents all the way to the Randolph County line near Ravenden. The new facility should be completed in the late fall. Architect Larry Bronson provided preliminary drawings for the library which were reviewed by attendees of the meeting.