County won't let Ashland join library negotiations

Negotiations to reopen libraries are complicated enough that Jackson County commissioners determined Thursday that Ashland officials will not be allowed to weigh in on a contract with a private company to operate all 15 branches.

"If they blame anybody, they can blame us," said Commissioner C.W. Smith.

He said he was disappointed to see the rhetoric from Ashland become malicious as the county negotiates a contract with Library Systems and Services LLC (known by the acronym LSSI), a Maryland-based library management company.

"In time, those people will be ashamed," said Smith.

The county is negotiating a contract to operate the library system for $4.3 million, or about half the former budget before libraries were closed April 6 and half the number of hours of operation.

At the same time, Ashland will vote on a levy on Sept. 18 that city officials promised would be used to augment hours of operation.

County officials agreed that if Ashland wants to take over control of its library building, they wouldn't stand in its way.

"If they want to take the branch, they can have the branch," said County Administrator Danny Jordan.

But he estimated that if Ashland decides to operate its library independently of the rest of the county system, it could cost about $2.5 million.

Ashland City Administrator Martha Bennett sent the county a memo last Friday outlining 20 issues the city has with the contract.

— Damian Mann

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