Morehead City budget worries supporters of Webb Library

A “closed” sign keeps visitors away at the Webb Memorial Library in Morehead City Thursday. The library has been closed since mid-March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Elise Clouser photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Residents have mounted a social media campaign to “save” the Webb Memorial Library, and a city official said the council will discuss the matter at its next budget workshop. 

On Wednesday, the Webb Library Instagram page put out a call for residents to contact city council members and the mayor about a budget proposal to “eliminate” the library next fiscal year. Several residents reposted the message on Facebook and the post garnered numerous likes, comments and shares across platforms.

“If the proposed budget passes, there will no longer be a Webb Memorial Public Library,” the original Instagram post reads. “The only items being funded are telephone services, utilities, and building maintenance. The staff has volunteered to continue providing services. If you want the Webb to continue to operate, contact the Mayor and Town Council.”

While it is true the proposed fiscal year 2020-21 budget does not fund operations of the Webb Library, City Manager Ryan Eggleston said nothing is finalized yet. The city council will get a full overview of the situation, including anticipated impacts of COVID-19 on library operations, during its budget workshop meeting Wednesday at noon.

“The city always welcomes feedback on the budget and budget process, and we appreciate each and every one of them that provides input, and the does council certainly values that,” Mr. Eggleston told the News-Times Thursday evening. “We’re not through the budget process, it’s a process we’re still working through.

“We invite folks who want to listen in on the workshop (to) listen in on the Zoom meeting for next Wednesday’s workshop and for subsequent meetings related to the budget, as well,” he concluded.

The Webb Library, like many other public buildings, has been closed since mid-March to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Some city public buildings will begin to reopen next week, but the Webb Library is not among them.

Several part-time library employees were among those recently laid off by Morehead City as a budget-cutting measure. Out of “privacy concerns,” Mr. Eggleston would not say how many library employees were laid off, but the proposed 2020-21 budget does not account for any full- or part-time salaries.

The proposed library budget only totals $31,690 – $825 for telephone services, $15,865 for utilities and $15,000 for building maintenance.

Councilwoman Diane Warrender said Thursday she and other council members are receiving a “deluge” of messages from residents about Webb Library.

“We are not closing the library,” she said Thursday.

The council’s budget meeting at noon Wednesday will immediately follow an agenda-setting workshop to begin at 9 a.m. Those who wish to electronically attend either meeting should contact City Clerk Cathy Campbell at cathy.campbell@moreheadcitync.org or call 252-726-6848, ext. 139, by 3 p.m. Monday.

The Friends of the Webb Library will hold an emergency meeting at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the library garden.

A representative with the Friends of the Library did not respond to a request for comment.

 

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(2) comments

DavidTom

If the library closing is temporary why were all the staff terminated?

David Collins

Perhaps the “friends” that were deluged with calls of concern would put their money where their concern is . Is that not what “friends” do in hard times ? A deluge of offerings made up of a few dollars each would certainly equal the budget . That is assuming that there is actually a deluge . Of course the danger here is that MHC would see this an excuse not to fund the library in the future . They have parks and playgrounds to pay for , you see .

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