‘It’s More Than Just Books’

Line In Paper Prompts Outpouring Of Support For BV Library

Advocates of the Buena Vista library urged City Council Thursday not to cut funding for the place that generates the most foot traffic in town.

“It’s a wonderful resource for my family,” said Christina Himes. “It’s an electronics and social resource that residents might not get in other ways. The library here is wonderful. … We’re home schoolers. The library provides a gathering place.”

Camille Lee said, “There are many reasons we need this resource. The library is a place to use computers and access the internet. My 3-year-old loves to go there. He’s read 1,000 books. I can’t afford all of the books he wants to read. … It would be a shame to cut funding for the library. There are more people there every day. It’s a safe, warm shelter.”

Himes and Lee were among 16 Buena Vista residents – parents and children alike – who addressed Council in hopes of dissuading members from cutting funding for the library. What prompted the outburst of library support was a one-sentence news item in the January issue of The Rockbridge Advocate: “Lexington Mayor Frank Friedman said Buena Vista Mayor Bill Fitzgerald informed him of plans to recommend cutting funding for the Buena Vista Library.”

Fitzgerald acknowledged to the citizens that he and no one else on Council raised the possibility of reducing library funding when he spoke to Friedman recently at a “mayors and chair” meeting attended by the two local mayors and the chairman of the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors.

Fitzgerald said he raised the prospect of cutting funding for a lot of things, including the library. “I was just giving my opinion to Frank. It’s been blown out of proportion in the paper. Nobody else up here said anything about cutting the library. We’re trying to balance the budget. That’s where it [came] from. Look at the budget. It’s not looking good. The school system – we don’t want to see it cut. It’s difficult. It’s really hard. Nobody wants to cut and nobody wants to raise taxes.”

Other library patrons to speak on the issue included former City Council member Steve Baldridge. “I’m biased. I’m married to a librarian. My mother and sister are librarians,” he said. “The library is the busiest enterprise in downtown. It brings people into the downtown. It’s the busiest [of the various branches of] the Rockbridge Regional Library system. This community loves the library.”

He added that “our public library operates on a shoestring” and could ill-afford any cuts to its funding.

Parry McCluer High School librarian Rishi Richardson said, “Our students are constantly using the library. It’s more than just the books – it’s the camaraderie. Kids from troubled homes are excited to be there.” If it were to disappear, she said, “The poorest kids would be missing out. They would not have a safe place to be.”

She noted that library had 28,000 customers last year, many of whom attended some very worthwhile programs, such as one on the history of Buena Vista.

Scudder Defended

Also during the citizens comments portion of City Council’s meeting on Thursday, George Huger expressed disappointment with Council’s recent decision to not reappoint City Manager Jay Scudder.

Huger, a Buena Vista resident who owns and operates the Southern Inn in downtown Lexington, noted that the city’s “running quite a deficit” and that Scudder has “done a pretty good job” holding the city’s operations together. He pointed out that Scudder is essentially doing two jobs since he’s filling the role of director of public works as well.

“The citizens of Buena Vista deserve to know some idea of what your ‘new vision’ is,” Huger said, alluding to a comment Mayor Bill Fitzgerald made in defending his vote against reappointing the city manager.

Vacancy Filled – At Last

A vacancy on Buena Vista’s Board of Zoning Appeals that has extended through 16 regular City Council meetings – a period of eight months – was finally filled on Thursday.

Christina Himes, attending the meeting as part of the contingent of library supporters, volunteered to fill the vacancy that was created when Casey Crookston stepped down last year.

The News-Gazette

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