Questions loom over Callender library board

‘I hate that there is conflict and want the conflict to end’

-Submitted photo The Callender Heritage Library is pictured here.

CALLENDER — A member of the library board in Callender is frustrated over city budget cuts to the library and her possible removal from the board.

The mayor of the Webster County town said decisions impacting the library aren’t personal.

Laurel Newell, the county at-large member of the Callender Heritage Library Board, said two years ago the city reduced the library’s budget from $15,000 to $5,000.

Newell was not yet a board member at the time, but said, “There’s been some tension from that.”

When the city set its budget in March, it again set the library’s budget at $5,000.

“It has been cut back,” Mayor Randy Hanson said. “There’s less money coming into the city. The city has had to make some cuts.”

The library receives most of its funding from the county, according to Tina Twito, the director of the Callender Heritage Library.

“We do have a trust account,” Twito said. “We had a really good fundraiser. Our trustees are really fighting to keep the library open.”

She said in spite of its size, the library is a popular destination.

“We have really strong community support,” Twito said. “We have strong summer reading attendance. We have a town under 400 people and have almost 80 kids show up for summer reading. The (city) funding came as a great shock to me a couple of years ago.”

Newell said she doesn’t agree with how one member of the library board was selected.

Hanson said the mayor appoints the library board members. Those members are then approved by the City Council.

But Newell and Twito both said in the case of Lynnette Simonson, that process wasn’t followed.

“We thought Lynnette Simonson was a trustee,” Twito said. “We found out the mayor appointed her, but the council never approved it.”

Newell added, “We found out not too long ago that the city never voted her in.”

The council went into closed session at its meeting May14 to discuss the appointment of the library liaison.

Hanson said, “I am not going to comment on that.”

Now, apparently, the city’s intention is to remove Newell and others from the library board.

Newell said she and two other members received the same letter, which said they were going to be removed.

“We don’t need a county liaison to get funding for the library,” Hanson said. “It’s nothing against her, it’s just that we don’t need her. We can get five people from the city.”

Then, on Thursday, Twito said Simonson had also received a letter of removal from the board.

“She was never appointed, so that’s weird,” Twito said. “This blows my mind.”

In terms of Newell’s removal from the library board, the Webster County Board of Supervisors would need to approve that. So far that hasn’t happened.

“Why would you not want county representation?” Twito said. “I would think because the county is giving almost four times as much money as the city that they might want someone to represent the investment in the library. I know some other people that would like it to stay that way.”

Twito added, “That has to be on the public ballot. Honestly, that’s up to the town if they decide that’s best for the town, but it has to be on the ballot and voted on to not have a county representative. The city can’t decide that on their own.”

Twito said Newell has been a valuable member of the library board.

“Laurel has been a great trustee,” Twito said. “She’s helped raise tons of money for the library. Maybe she’s just ruffling feathers, I don’t know.”

Newell said the library’s fundraiser in March was the best-performing fundraiser in the library’s history.

“I would love to be told a just cause reason to exclude me,” Newell said.

Twito said she hopes for better communication between the city and the library board.

“A lot of the council members are patrons and their kids are patrons,” Twito said. “I hate that there is conflict and want the conflict to end.”