DeFrates column: Supporting 6A for a well-connected community
Above the door of the library in Thebes, almost 2,000 years ago, were inscribed the words: “The healing place of the soul.”
Don’t you just love columns which begin with a melodramatic quote? I try to avoid that format most times, but in this instance, the truth, weight and poignancy of that image were too much to pass up.
Whether you have never set foot in the libraries of Garfield County, or if you find yourself in there every other day and Saturday, you should vote yes on Ballot Measure 6A this November, and I’m not going to pull any punches as to why.
First of all, we will address the elephant in the room: every person who categorically votes against tax increases. Will 6A increase your taxes? Yes, if you own property, it will increase them about $10/year/$100,000 property value with a higher rate for commercial properties.
For most of us that means somewhere between $30-$80 each year. If you escrow your property taxes each month, that equates to between $2.50 and $12 each month.
Did you spend $12 on some nonessential, frivolous “self-care” item or restaurant meal in the last month? What did that purchase really buy you besides one thing which was nice for a short time and then gone?
If you own property in Garfield County, investing that amount back into the community where you live means that you get value for decades, instead of just one and done.
With the money from the mill levy increase in ballot measure 6A, the library will be able to provide services that the community needs at the hours when they need them.
Amy Shipley, assistant director of the libraries, states the biggest reason for the mill levy request like this: “[Right now] we are not open when our kids need us to be open. We are not open when professionals need us to be open.”
Revenue has been steadily declining for the last 10 years, and all Garfield County libraries are closed on Sundays now. During the weekdays and Saturdays, hours vary slightly, but most involve opening no earlier than 11, and staying open only until 5 or 6 most nights. This means that anyone working a 9-5 job would only be able to access the library on Saturdays.
Mothers with young children find that 11 a.m. is too late to start any outing, and students who need a safe place to be during at-risk after school hours would not be able to spend much of it in the library.
The approval of the 1.5 mill levy, in addition to the current 1.07 mill, would allow the libraries to extend daytime hours, with the goal of eventually re-opening on Sundays in Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. It would allow them to offer more competitive wages to retain qualified staff, keep more in-demand titles on the shelf, and support programming for kids and teens.
Early literacy, better access to technology, senior programs and after-school classes would be among the priorities, as well.
If you still need another reason to vote yes, think about the last time you complained about how we don’t have a sense of community, polite discourse or positive role models for youth. When was the last time you remember seeing a headline about isolation, depression, or lack of connection for residents of mountain towns?
Better funding the libraries means that we are funding the last line of defense against the loneliness and disconnectedness of today’s world. Seniors, teenagers, first-time parents, professionals new to the area, and even longtime locals and ski bums have all experienced the feeling at some point that there is just nowhere they can go to connect with other people.
If the library doors can be open longer, then they can welcome more people with different lives, goals and needs. Our libraries are already doing a phenomenal job, despite being up against impossible budgets and a lack of resources.
Vote for 6A to give our libraries a boost as they work hard to be the beating heart of our community where education, community and connectedness all live under the same roof.
Lindsay DeFrates is a freelance writer living in Glenwood Springs. She can be reached at http://www.roaringforkwriter.com.
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