Orange County residents can continue to read their favorite books at the Chapel Hill Public Library — for now.
The Chapel Hill Town Council voted Monday against a resolution that would have instituted a fee-based library card system for county residents who live outside Chapel Hill’s borders but use the town’s library.
Council members Matt Czajkowski and Laurin Easthom were the only two to support the measure.
“I simply don’t understand why the taxpayers of Chapel Hill should be asked by us to continue to subsidize 40 percent of the users who are not through their own taxes contributing anything remotely close to the whole cost of their use,” Czajkowski said.
Instead of moving forward with the $60 yearly fee, the council asked Town Manager Roger Stancil to receive a $340,000 contribution from the county.
By accepting this money, the council will enter an agreement of interoperability with the Board of Orange County Commissioners and discuss what the county’s contribution to the town’s library should be in the future.
“We are just going to get more money than we would have otherwise, and we don’t have to do anything but keep conversations going,” Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said. “If we don’t come to something, we’ll stop taking the money.”
Both Easthom and Czajkowski raised concerns about the effect receiving the money will have in terms of how much influence the county hopes to gain.
“Other cities (charge library fees) — it is not unusual,” council member Laurin Easthom said. “I think $60 is reasonable. I think that we do charge people who live outside of our town for other things.”
Other council members saw the county’s offer as a sign of good faith and staying open to conversations, while also making financial sense.
“This gives us more money this fiscal year than we will ever get by starting to charge” council member Gene Pease said. “I don’t see a downside to this decision today.”
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