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Solebury supervisors creates Library Task Force


The Solebury supervisors need more information about how the Free Library of New Hope & Solebury functions and establishing a level of oversight before they give it any more money.

To that end the board on Tuesday voted unanimously to create a Library Task Force of residents and board members to make recommendations on what the structure of a joint township-library relationship should be.

The board plans to recommend task force members at its next meeting on Feb. 4. The task force would operate until June 30, and could be extended beyond that date.

The supervisors did not increase library funding in their 2020 budget, keeping the contribution at $120,000. The library had requested an additional $50,000.

Chair Mark Baum Baicker said he was “not yet ready to vote in favor of the requested $50,000 increase. But if we can get this oversight process going soon and make substantial progress on both fronts – developing an oversight mechanism and getting clear on the financial “what-ifs” – perhaps later this year I can support the requested increase.”

One “what-if” is the library’s contention that it can raise $1.5 million in three years for its endowment fund.

“The library has indicated that raising those funds is the key factor in how long they’ll need the additional funds from us. (The board) needs to review the underpinnings of that fundraising assumption,” Baum Baicker said.

If those funds are not forthcoming and/or New Hope Borough does not increase its contribution, “will we be asked for much higher amounts in the not-too-distant future?” he asked.

Baum Baicker also noted that when the board hiked its 2019 contribution by $20,000 to a total of $120,000, “we were quite clear that the additional amount was a one-time increase that we could not guarantee for 2020.” However, the $20,000 amount stayed in the 2020 contribution.

Also at issue, he said, is that as far as he knows there has never been a written agreement between the library and the township and/or New Hope outlining the relationship.

State law, he said, requires that when two municipalities jointly fund a library, it must be by a written agreement.

“That law specifically cites ‘support’ and ‘control’ as issues that must be addressed. So doing adequate oversight and documenting that oversight are critical,” Baum Baicker said.

Supervisor Kevin Morrissey said, “I also have concluded that the library is the only entity that receives significant township funding without accountability to the township or a township review process. I believe we need to work towards a new formal township-library relationship to address this issue.”

Saying he supported the idea of a task force, Supervisor John Francis noted, “An increase of this ($50,000) significance should come with some strings.”

Supervisor Noel Barrett said that while he was “touched by the enthusiasm” of the library supporters, “I don’t have enough information right now” to vote for the requested increase.

Supervisor Robert McEwan, who favors granting the library hike by taking funds from the existing township budget, also voted in favor creating the library task force.

In other business, the supervisors agreed to spend $14,880 for a groundwater study by UHL Associates in the Route 202 – Logan Square area involving the Aquetong aquifer.

The board also made the following appointments of Solebury residents to non-compensated positions on local boards:

- Douglas Shaw, and James Mansfield, Environmental Advisory Council;

- Elaine Crooks, associate member to the Land Preservation Committee;

- Lars Crooks, Deer Management Committee.