Lake County Council removes Gary library board member

2012-04-10T17:45:00Z Lake County Council removes Gary library board memberBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Lake County Council members on Tuesday removed Cynthia Watts as their appointee to the Gary library board by a 4-3 vote.

Ben Coleman, a former Gary library board president, said after the vote that he was pleased with the result. He said he now intends to pressure Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson to remove library board member Rayfield Fisher, and the Gary Community School Corp. board to recall appointees Tony Walker and Jonathan Boose.

"We have met some political resistance, but we will persevere," Coleman said.

Coleman organized an effort to purge Gary library board members who voted last year to close Gary's main library at 220 W. Fifth Ave. and reopen it later this summer as a cultural center. Opponents argue the downtown building was a symbol of literacy and a museum was an ill-conceived waste of public money.

County Councilman Jerome Prince, D-Gary, who defended Watts, said Tuesday that closing the main library was an unpopular but necessary move in the face of shrunken tax revenues. Four neighborhood branch locations were left open.

County Councilwoman Elsie Franklin, D-Gary, led the vote to remove Watts. Franklin said Watts didn't represent the wishes of Gary residents or the County Council.

Library Director Otis Alexander said Tuesday after the Watts vote that the future of the library system leaves him confused.

"This has been a horrific experience," he said.

Alexander said he has no realistic budget or action plan for the proposed museum, which he fears would be too heavy a burden for city taxpayers.

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