Whelden Trustees Seek Fiscal Aid From Fire District

Trustees of the Whelden Memorial Library in West Barnstable are seeking financial support for the library from the West Barnstable Fire District.

Members of the library board of trustees brought the proposal forward to the district prudential committee at the committee’s meeting Wednesday evening.

For starters, the trustees are seeking the introduction and passage of enabling state legislation that would open the door to the possibility of such funding.

They do not have a specific dollar figure in mind.

The prudential committee voted 3-0 to direct West Barnstable Fire Chief Joseph V. Maruca to meet with state Representative Randy Hunt and the district’s attorney, Bruce Gilmore, to explore the topic and set the process in motion.

Library board treasurer Stuart Schulman said the library has been fiscally responsible but still has been facing difficulty in meeting its costs.

Despite the efforts of volunteer fundraisers, Mr. Schulman said, the library in at least recent years has been forced to dip into its endowment, which now totals $285,000.

In coming to the fire district for assistance, Mr. Schulman noted that the library serves as one of three community buildings in West Barnstable.

“We’re not asking for any money to be moved away from the fire department,” Mr. Schulman said, but rather an additional appropriation for the library.

There is a precedent in the Town of Barnstable for fire district support of a local library.

The Cotuit Fire District has been supporting the Cotuit Library with an annual stipend for more than 60 years.

At the Cotuit district’s annual meeting this past spring, voters approved spending $17,722 to support the Cotuit Library.

Voters in the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire District voted last year that legislation be pursued to allow the district to include a line item for the libraries in the fire district budget.

But that effort has stalled.Van Northcross, chairman of the West Barnstable prudential committee, said at Wednesday meeting that he would be open to backing financial support for the village library when major costs arose, but not for ongoing operations.

But Hilary Sandler, president of the Whelden library board of trustees, said she hoped the district would allow any financial support to also be used toward operational costs.

Mr. Northcross also expressed concern that asking the voters for additional money to support the library could jeopardize voter support for regular fire district expenses.

West Barnstable district voters are unlikely to be presented with library funding proposals anytime soon.

Mr. Maruca said changes in the district’s enabling legislation would require positive votes from the state legislature, from the prudential committee and from voters at the district’s annual meeting.

District treasurer Michael Daley doubted the necessary changes could be in place to allow for funding in the coming fiscal year, which starts next July 1.

Kate Mitchell, chairman of the library board’s finance committee, said she anticipates voters would not face any funding requests until the 2014 or 2015 annual meetings.

The library trustees who attended Wednesday’s meeting were heartened by the prudential committee’s response, which Ms. Mitchell called “a fabulous beginning.”

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