The squeaky wheel gets the city’s money

I literally walked into a story Wednesday evening when my wife and daughter and I visited the public library. When we entered the building, there were fans everywhere and the place was oppressively hot. The air conditioner had quit working on a 91-degree day.

When I got to work Thursday morning, I made some calls and wrote a news story about it.

What I discovered was that back in August, the City Council deemed a proposed replacement of the library’s HVAC system so important that council members took from several other department’s budgets to come up with $105,000 for the library. But the HVAC replacement still hasn’t been completed, because the engineer’s estimate came in at about $125,000. That leaves the funding $20,000 short.

Coincidentally, the library’s air conditioner incident came just three days after the City Council voted unanimously to donate up to $30,000 for the operation of the Mitchell Middle School pool next school year. That’s $30,000 to keep open a pool that is not city-owned (the city owns two other pools), and that everybody acknowledges will be closed sometime in the next few years, if not next year.

The pool people asked for the money. Nobody from the library has come to the council, at least that I know of, to ask for the additional $20,000 to do the HVAC project. I suppose that’s the simplest explanation for why one project is getting funded and the other isn’t. It’s also important to remember that the decision to close or keep the Middle School pool open still lies with the Board of Education, so the city’s $30,000 for the pool might never get spent.

I’m not taking a position on either issue. Both the pool and the library are important to the community. But here are some numbers to consider: The pool is used by 81 swim-team members and some of the hundreds of Mitchell Middle School students; the library is used by 11,000 cardholders from Mitchell and the surrounding area.

Again, I’m not saying either facility is more worthy of funding than the other. I’m just saying that this is probably an illustration of the squeaky wheel getting the grease — or, in this case, the money. In fact, Councilwoman Geri Beck, who is the council’s liaison to the library, told me that yesterday:

"It could be that the squeaky wheel gets the grease," she said, "and maybe the library people are just more patient when it comes to these kinds of things."

7 thoughts on “The squeaky wheel gets the city’s money

  1. After reading your article, it appears that the library was given $105,000 towards a $125,000 project that has been divided over two years. So maybe, the simplest answer is that the library hasn’t gone back to the city yet because they have more than enough money now to do the first half of the project. And if the extra $20,000 can be obtained from the City Council by next year – there’s lead time to budget for this – and the part to repair the AC has arrived and it’s fixed for now, this may not be an example of injustice or unfairness. No matter that it would be nice to have both.

    The pool issue is both unrelated and more complicated. Although not owned by the city, the swim meets contribute to tourism and business for the city. The Council had already committed $11,000 with an offer to add UP TO $19,000 more out of a request for $45,000. It is not a long-term financial burden for the city – it is a one-off donation to help keep the swim club, it’s members (and swim scholarship applicants) from being left high and dry (literally) by an abrupt closure by the school. As the MAC spokesman has stated, if the club is disbanded for lack of a facility, it will be much harder to re-establish a swim club than to maintain one. Also, it really does, at least theoretically, put pressure on the school to put some funds (maybe the $15,000 shortfall?) to maintain a phys ed option for it’s students UNTIL a replacement (pool or gymnastics or whatever) is actually available.

    The Mitchell Aquatic Club deserves a lot of credit for it’s ability to come up with so many options for maintaining it’s mission when it was essentially blindsided by the school’s closure “announcement.” The willingness of an 81-member club to fund half of the $90,000 costs, for a pool that benefits “hundreds of middle school students” with lifesaving and lifelong skills (as compared to gymnastics say) is commendable.

    The school board decision should be interesting.

  2. Some 40 years ago more than 60% of the voters in the last major successful school bond election in Mitchell, said swimming should be part of the middle school program. In 2002 the majority of voters approved an opt-out that would continue existing programs. What part of “existing” does the superintendent and board not understand? Who determined that the opt-out was to keep existing programs, anyway?

  3. MSD 17-2 Patrons, Taxpayers, & Voters,

    The City need not fret about the $30,000 offered by the council to keep the MMS pool open. School board members & Supt Joe secretly agreed to close the MMS pool prior to April 10 when Supt Joe told the people, “… its a done deal in my mind”.

    Our board members do not hold their hired Supt responsible for & accountable to the Board. Our Board is simply a five member social club that attends school functions, get together twice a month to report on the school related events they attended, and approve all of Supt Joe’s recommended board actions.

    As shown on the District’s website, our past & present Boards have approved all of Supt Joe’s recommended board actions ~ not one of his board actions has ever been rejected by our past & present Boards. After the June 2 election is over, Supt Joe’s recruited rubberstamping board members will bob their heads approving his recommended board action to closes the MMS pool.

    In the winter of 2009, a functional Board would have told Supt Joe, “The fate of the MMS pool & the Longfellow School are not a day-to-day operational decisions you were hired to make. The MMS pool & Longfellow School decisions are above your pay grade. Since the people own the MMS pool & the Longfellow School, the fate of the MMS pool & Longfellow School needs to be determined by a vote of the people. Thus, the Board is going to refer the MMS pool & Longfellow School decisions to a public vote in the upcoming June 2, 2009 election”.

    Our board members were elected by the people to listen to & hear the concerns voiced by the people! Our board members were not elected by the people to only promote Supt Joe’s twisted spins, misleading partial truths, & cover up ruses. In order to change the status quo, Supt Joe must go & all of his rubberstamping board members must be replaced in upcoming elections!

  4. I still believe it was a good idea to combine our city library with the Geo McGovern library on the campus of DWU… combining services is a great way to increase volume and save money, just as I believe that the hospital, DWU, and the city should be cooperating in building a wellness center with an indoor pool. I hope the swim team is successful in raising enough money to keep the Middle School pool open until this happens, but just as a temporary measure.

  5. Yes, it is my problem, but……..I have a control issue with DWU. They will take first in any scheduling. (After all, they are a college and more important.) I would prefer they all Keep It Simple.
    City……..arena.
    City………Library.
    Avera……….Wellness Center.
    School…….education/sports/music.
    DWU…….they have the Christain Center, and McGovern Library. If they want more, they can build it.

  6. combining the libraries would probably entail a new building as neither space is large enough for both collections. There would also be the issue of what was in the collections. DWU is a religion-oriented school and could possibly have questions as to appropriate information for their collection. A college library also has a different aim than a public library.. The public library is supposed to be open to all and have all information available that it can afford, regardless of content matter (well, not pornography, but i would hope that would be understood.)
    a bigger challenge that one would think to combine two such diverse libraries.

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