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Thursday

July 2014

31

Library should not have to close

Village of Sussex — The Pauline Haass Library should not have to close and should be able to continue to operate without a joint funding agreement between the Village of Sussex and the Town of Lisbon, according to the executive director of the Waukesha County Federated Library System (WCFLS).

The WCFLS was established by state law and county ordinance to assist in the coordination of services for 16 libraries in the county and to distribute state and local funds to those libraries.

Newly appointed Executive Director Connie Meyer said the library would have to maintain standards established by the state and county to remain open without the funding agreement.

Meyer's opinion appears to reinforce arguments by Sussex officials that the library would not have to close if the funding agreement is not renewed.

Village trustees have vowed to keep the library open and maintain services at existing levels if Lisbon terminates the agreement that created the library in 1987.

In addition, the trustees have said they will not divide the library's assets with the town if the town terminates the agreement.

Town officials argue that without the agreement, the library can no longer exist, and the value of the assets must be divided by the two communities.

Town Attorney Katheryn Gutenkunst disagreed with Meyer, arguing that, according to state law, the joint municipal library must be operated in accordance with the agreement that established it.

According to the agreement, "Should the termination of this agreement result in the closing of the library, the assets thereof shall be divided among the two municipalities in accordance with the ratio of expense sharing in the average of the five-year period preceding said termination."

The agreement also states that if there is a dispute about the distribution of the assets, all assets should be sold and the proceeds distributed.

According to Meyer, Lisbon may also have the option of creating its own library.

However, the town would have to get approval from the Waukesha County Board and meet strict state and county standards for establishing a library, Meyer added.

Negotiations between the town and village over a new funding agreement have stopped partly as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Library Board against the town seeking "control and custody" of 65 acres of farmland donated to the town for library purposes by the late Pauline Haass.

Court-ordered mediation between the parties in that lawsuit has yet to begin because lawyers for both sides are apparently reviewing documents in preparation for both mediation and a trial that could be scheduled later this year.

Town supervisors argue it would be less costly for town residents to pay a county library tax than continue to fund the agreement.

The funding agreement exempts town residents from the county tax, which is levied on municipalities that rely on neighboring municipalities for library services.

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