Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UPDATED: OSNGUPL Non-Resident Fees Skyrocket

By Stephen Vance, Staff

booksThe Owen Sound North Grey Union Public Library (OSNGUPL) announced late Tuesday (March 25) that the non-resident user fee is increasing from $160 per year to $500.

At its regular monthly meeting today (March 25), the Board of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library Board voted to increase its non- resident user fee to $500 per family. The Library’s non-resident fee has remained the same at $160.00 since 1994 when the first union library agreement was signed,” said the OSNGUPL in a press release.

In the ensuing 20 years the cost of offering library service has increased significantly, and the non-resident fee has not kept pace,” says Board Chair Richard Thomas.

The announcement from the library board said that an increase in non-resident user-fees have been under consideration for a number of years, however the timing of the announcement comes on the heels of a staff report submitted to Meaford’s council on March 10 that suggested that significant savings could be found if Meaford opted out of a contract with the OSNGUPL which allows residents of the former Township of Sydenham to use the facility – which Sydenham was a founding member of – at no charge, and instead pay a 100 percent subsidy to Sydenham residents for reimbursement of the $160 per family non-resident fee.

In that report, Meaford CAO Denyse Morrissey told council that 679 individuals from Sydenham currently hold membership cards at the OSNGUPL, though it is uncertain from the data provided by the OSNGUPL how many households those 679 individuals represent. Staff did however provide estimates to council for the potential cost savings under various scenarios.

According to Morrissey’s report, even if those 679 individuals were all from separate households, Meaford would pay $108,640 if the municipality were to fully reimburse the $160 per household non-resident fees – a savings of $8,854 per year.

However, the savings are much more significant in the more likely scenario that at least some of those 679 individual members share the same roof.

Morrissey reported to council that if those individual members were broken down into households of an average size of two people, representing 340 households, the cost of full reimbursement of the $160 per household non-resident fees would only be $54,320 – a savings of more than $63,000 per year when compared to what Meaford currently pays the OSNGUPL under contract.

When contacted by The Independent for comment on the announcement of the significant increase in non-resident user fees, members of council were clearly not amused.

The announcement from OSNGUPL that non-resident rates are to increase to $500 underlines the essence of what has plagued the ongoing relationship issues between neighbours.  Each municipal government, and in this case OSNGUPL Library Board, is responsible for its costs and each side is jockeying for leverage to control costs yet maintain services,” said Councillor James McIntosh. “Meaford Council is not naive enough to believe that the non resident fee would stay stagnate if Council were to vote to terminate its library services contract, a discussion that has not even been broached yet. I had not however anticipated a 312% increase and the sudden nature of this move has certainly pulled the curtain open on the issue of contracts for service, and how sometimes they are used to maintain an ancient status quo.  It is a shame that the doors of communication were not more ajar as the the sentiments of our duty to our community and its citizens demand that we look at everything in our municipal portfolio, and consider all available and reasonable options.  This goes both ways as well and yet the non resident fees for the OSNGUPL, which were the highest in Ontario before the increase, are now an astronomical $350 pricier than the next most expensive library in the entire province. If there is to be finger pointing about who needs to control their costs we need look no further than to those trying to keep the cash come hell or high water.”

Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield was also candid in his remarks.

$500 for non residents?? This on top of an already very high non-resident fee ($160). Yes, it is a very good Library, a Carnegie Library, but having a non resident fee over 10 times the Ontario average (of those libraries’ NR fees I have seen), is rather excessive, to say the least,” responded Greenfield. “One has to wonder if this tripling in the fee has any reflection on a recent Library services report prepared by Municipality of Meaford CAO Denyse Morrissey and presented to Council. A report which was basically noted and filed. Could this be a defensive move on the part of OSNGU to preserve their contract arrangement with our fine municipality? Or a warning shot that states any contracting municipality should think very seriously before opting out of the contract agreement? However, this action does, in my mind, fly in the face of neighbourly co-operation and collaboration.”

Councillor Lynda Stephens responded to our request for comment with a brief statement.

My comment personally would be that this fee is obviously excessive,” Stephens responded. “As a member of council, I should remind myself and you that council comments are to be made by the Mayor as official statements. My comments are just mine and council will have to take the time to digest all of this.”

Meaford Mayor Francis Richardson suggested the move could have unintended consequences.

The Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library is an independent body and can make any decision it wishes. If this has been done in response to a “possible” change in Meaford’s contract for library service, it is interesting that they see our contract as so important to their library. I emphasize that there is no motion in front of council to change that service. We received a report and it was filed,” Richardson told the Independent.  There are unintended consequences of this decision that I regret. It means that any visitors or tourists that come to our area for an extended period of time and want to use the Union Library Services will find it very expensive. For an area that has visitors & tourism as a priority, it is not a positive.”

 

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