Ewell Free Library on Broadway in Alden may soon lose its independence from Erie County, Town Supervisor Harry Milligan said at Monday night’s board meeting.
The library is one of the few in the area that is still independent, Milligan said. The town currently provides $25,000 per year to the library. That funding would stop if Erie County takes over the library, he said.
“I’m not sure what this means to us,” Milligan said. “I don’t think we’ll be giving them the $25,000 anymore.”
If the town continued to give the library money, it “would be like supporting Erie County,” said Councilwoman Mary Riddoch.
“Exactly,” Milligan said.
The Ewell Free Library is a locally governed free association library that currently operates as one of 22 contract libraries within the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system. The countywide library system receives funding from Erie County but is governed by an independent central library Board of Trustees appointed by the county executive and the mayor of Buffalo.
Members of the Central Library Board of Trustees have been working toward creating a new countywide library governance structure that would operate as a special library district. Under that proposal, which would require a public referendum, all of the library branches would be governed by one centralized board elected by the public. Each local branch would have a local advisory board that would provide community direction and guidance, said Mary Jean Jakubowski, director of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.
Funding from the town of Alden is currently used to keep the Ewell Free Library open additional hours beyond the requirements of the library’s state charter, Jakubowski said.
The library may be pressured into joining with Erie County for economic reasons, Milligan said, noting that Erie County will be using the libraries to institute a countywide library tax.
“It’s going to be another layer of taxes which I don’t know we can support,” he said.
Although Ewell Free Library uses county books, it was able to set its own hours and agenda, Milligan said. If the county takes over, the county will dictate how the library operates.
“It’s a shame to see the system go down like this,” he said. The library would prefer to stay independent, Milligan said.
In other board news, a new legislative proposal at the state level may give Alden an increased voice in industrial development in the town, Milligan said.
The Community Choice Act would allow small towns like Alden to work with a larger town that has its own Industrial Development Agency, like Hamburg or Lancaster, instead of relying on the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.
The bill, which is sponsored by Republican State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan and Democratic Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak, would give smaller communities more representation, Milligan said.
“We don’t really get represented by the Erie County IDA,” he said. “At least we don’t feel we do. This will give us more representation as a bigger group and allow us to make some decisions for our own community.”