The Penticton Public Library will remain open on Sundays throughout most of 2011.
Penticton council voted 5-2 on Monday to add $4,000 to the library board’s budget to reopen the facility on Sundays come October.
Last year, the library board incurred the disapproval of some on council — particularly Coun. John Vassilaki — for deciding to balance its $934,719 budget, frozen since 2009 levels despite growing costs and inflation, by cancelling Sunday openings, which historically run January to April and October to December. The decision saw the library closed on Sundays for the end of last year.
However, Vassilaki said the board should have been able to make up the budget shortfall without closing on Sundays, the only day, he asserted, that many parents have an opportunity to bring their children to the library.
“In my opinion, it is part of the art culture of our society to be able to go to a library and read the books, especially for kids,” said Vassilaki. “My main interest is kids. Adults, they can take care of themselves but kids can’t.”
Eventually, with Vassilaki pushing, the board reached a deal to fund the openings from January to April, using an extra $2,500 from the city and another $2,700 from within the library’s budget.
But with this year’s budget also frozen, the board again decided to eliminate Sunday openings come October.
Board chair Al Kidd told council that it was a hard decision, but after conducting a user survey the board deiced it was the least drastic of a lot of bad options.
“What is best for one person is not always best for somebody else,” he said. “What (the hours and days) we currently have in place the citizens of Penticton really love.”
Council was told the cost to reopen the facility on Sundays for the 2011 winter months would be $4,000, prompting Vassilaki to once again push council to come up with the money.
Only Mayor Dan Ashton and Coun. Judy Sentes, council’s liaison to the library board, voted against the extra funding.
“It (isn’t) that I don’t support the library. I do,” said Sentes. “(But) I have just met with the library board again this past week and we reviewed again their processes, and if we were going to give them additional (money) I think they should have some say in where they would like to see it go because (Sunday openings) is not high on their priority list, and their survey certainly doesn’t suggest the community is as upset as what is being inferred here.”
Sentes also said she has trouble with a process where council tells groups to live within their budgets only to turn around and give one group extra money when it doesn’t like the group’s budgetary decisions, an assertion echoed by Ashton.
“This is one of the issues where we are coming in from the side door not the front door,” said Ashton.