Columbia County commissioners have decided to keep the county's library system in the East Central Georgia Regional Library System - at least for now.
County officials balked at staying as part of the region - which includes Augusta and other surrounding counties - when the region announced the annual dues charged to Columbia County would rise nearly 10 times higher over the next three years.
Even so, Columbia County Library Director Christina Rice said the $104,000 per-year cost is a bargain.
"After studying the alternatives, it does look like it's cost-effective to stay in the system," Rice told commissioners. "I think we get a good value for our dollar in the region," agreed Gary Swint, the regional library director.
The county's current membership in the region costs $14,000 per year. If Columbia County pulled out of the regional system, Rice said, the county would lose access to the bookmobile, which would especially hit hard in rural areas. But the county's libraries would also have to take over the job of processing new books, a task currently handled by the regional system.
Altogether, leaving the system would cost the county $220,000 per year - $167,000 to replace the bookmobile, and $53,000 to process and catalog books to state standards. Leaving the system and hiring a private company for book processing would carry all those costs plus an additional $40,000, according to Rice's study.
Staying with the region, under a three-year plan to phase in the new dues structure, would cost $34,000 this year, $70,000 in 2004 and $104,000 in 2005. The plan would eventually result in dues based on $1 per person in the county.
County Commission Chairman Ron Cross asked Swint why region membership costs are jumping so drastically. "We're asked to go from $14,000 to $34,000 to $70,000 to over $100,000. Why so much?"
Swint said the rate hasn't gone up since 1975, explaining that Richmond County has been absorbing most of the additional costs as the region's population - especially in Columbia County - has grown. "I've been in this job for just two years; previous administrations didn't want to address it."
Commissioners approved the increased payment for the current year only, rather than signing a three-year contract as Rice and Swint requested.
In other action:
Columbia County Development Authority Chairman Bill Coleman announced the hiring of Zack Daffin as the new executive director of the county development authority.
Daffin previously worked as director of business development for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama in Birmingham, where he helped land a $1 billion Hyundai factory.
A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Daffin also served 15 years as a developer with Alabama Power and the Southern Company's Alabama Power operation. Daffin, who started Wednesday, replaces Bryan Quinsey, who resigned in February and now is president and CEO of Greene County Partnership in Greeneville, Tenn.
Commissioners approved spending $4,000 from hotel/motel tax funds for fireworks for the third annual Red, White & Blue Veterans Celebration on May 24 at Doctors Hospital Field in Evans. Melrose Pyrotechnics will provide the show.
Commissioners rescinded the $186,000 bid award for county rights-of-way mowing to Northwood Nurseries/JEBCO Inc., and awarded the contract to Sprinklers Plus Inc. for $202,000.
"They couldn't make the partnership happen," said Columbia County Construction and Maintenance Director Kevin Lear, explaining the Northwood/JEBCO withdrawal.
The contract covers three "cuts" on county roadways for one year, and can be renewed for two additional years.
Commissioners issued a proclamation declaring May 1 Loyalty Day in Columbia County at the request of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3200.
Commissioners also issued a proclamation expressing gratitude to the seven county employees called away for military service in the war with Iraq.
Engineering Department employee Donna Hall was named the county's employee of the month for April; the 911 Communications Center was named team of the quarter.
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