Great River Regional Library rejects Elk River’s requests

by Rachel Minske
Contributing Writer
The Great River Regional Library System has rejected Elk River’s proposed changes to a master agreement with its participating communities, according to city documents.

The proposed agreement includes terms about the library facility, equipment and furnishings, insurance and employees, among other things.

After the first draft of the joint powers agreement was created, 17 communities expressed concerns and met with GRRL Executive Director Karen Pundsack and staff in October to discuss proposed revisions to the agreement. On Nov. 15, the GRRL Board of Trustees approved the various revisions and extended the deadline for cities to approve the new agreement to June 30.

In January, the Elk River City Council met to discuss concerns about language within the master joint powers agreement, which would replace existing individual agreements with varying language.

Concerns about the branch agreement voiced by council members and forwarded to Pundsack included:
•Phrasing about access to the library building. The proposed agreement included the following: “The city, its employees and agents, will be allowed to access the said building in order to provide janitorial services and maintain the building.” The council wanted the phrase reworded as the city owns the building and believes its employees and agents should be able to access the building at their sole discretion.
•Questions were also raised about termination of the agreement. Part of the proposed agreement said that cities that terminate services couldn’t make future claims against GRRL. Council members did not want to give up claim rights upon termination, citing it could be in the city’s best interest to terminate the agreement and pursue reconciliation for any possible claims.
•The council also voiced concerns about the criteria for scale and services delivered, as outlined in the proposed agreement. Under the agreement, the number of public and staff computer stations would be dependent on facility size and wiring capacity. The council felt the tiers of service were unfairly balanced, according to city documents.

In an email response to City Administrator Cal Portner, Pundsack said the GRRL Board’s Executive Committee discussed the Elk River City Council’s proposed changes and decided the current contract language sufficiently covers the raised issues. The committee voted to not change the contract again, Pundsack wrote.

“Their goal is to have one standardized contract with all cities,” Pundsack said of the committee. “Several cities have already passed and signed the November revision.”

Elk River City Council Member Jerry Olsen asked Portner during a March 6 work session whether the council has any other options regarding the proposed changes.

“We really don’t; our hands are tied,” Portner said.

The library system, which manages 32 libraries across six counties in central Minnesota, intends to create a master joint powers agreement that would replace existing individual agreements with varying language. The GRRL System operates Elk River’s library, the second largest branch.

The GRRL System pays for books, educational materials and wages for the library employees.

The previous library branch agreement dates to 2004, and the city of Elk River is required to sign off on the new agreement by June 30.

City considers expansion to hours
The city of Elk River is working with the GRRL System on another front, too.

In February, the City Council passed a resolution that requests the GRRL System calculate the cost of expanding the local library’s hours.
City officials have discussed expanding hours for some time and when they asked the GRRL System about the possibility, they were told a formal resolution from the City Council first would have to be in place.

The Elk River Library’s current hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, noon to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The library is closed on Sundays.

The proposed hours of operation would include opening daily at 10 a.m.; the proposed hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The library would continue to be closed on Sundays, under the proposal.