Millinocket council reinstates position after library board cries foul

Posted May 27, 2011, at 2:34 p.m.
Last modified May 27, 2011, at 4:48 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine ? The Town Council kept a children’s librarian position in the town’s proposed 2011-12 budget after the town’s library board accused councilors and Town Manager Eugene Conlogue of violating town codes by cutting the position without telling board members.

In a letter signed by the trustees of the Millinocket Memorial Library, the trustees said they and staff met with John McManus, the library’s director, before he proposed cutting the position to the council and Conlogue.

However, “at no time did the town manager or any member of the Town Council contact the board of trustees to discuss any budget proposals,” the board’s letter states.

The trustees cited the code and wrote that “the town manager and the Town Council do not have the right to act alone without including the Board of Trustees in making arbitrary decisions that will affect the day to day operations of the library” and opposed the cut.

They said the position, which is held by Marietta Cole, “is more important than ever” given looming school budget cuts that leave “struggling educators who are also trying to do more with less.”

“The collaboration and cooperation between schools and the public library is more important than ever,” the letter continued.

Councilors seemed surprised by the letter, but McManus said Friday that while the board of trustees reviews his budgeting and staffing each month, usually Conlogue and he set the annual budget without board input.

“They are simply an advisory board,” McManus said of the trustees. “I am not sure that we have to seek their approval first.”

The library’s director since 1997, McManus said he will meet with the trustees on June 21 to review the town code and suggest that the trustees “make their opinions better known” during the next budget session.

Conlogue’s initial budget proposal called for cuts totaling $1.02 million on the municipal side, including seven full- and part-time positions, of which one was Cole’s. Council workshops held over the last month have cut into that. Conlogue said he won’t be certain exactly how many positions are saved until next week.

Conlogue proposed his budget cuts in response to, among other things, anticipated losses in tax revenue totaling $1.7 million next year from Katahdin Paper Co. LLC, which closed the mill in September 2008. The revenue loss, Conlogue said, will come as part of an expected $75 million devaluation of the mill regardless of whether state officials succeed in finding a new mill owner.

Cutting Cole’s position would have saved the town about $38,000, McManus said.

Conlogue did not immediately return a telephone message left Friday.

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