HAMMOND | Hammond Public Library representatives had strong words for City Council members at their first meeting following the denial of the library's requested budget increase.
The library’s director, financial analyst and union representative spoke to council members at the end of last week's meeting that featured a lengthy debate over eliminating an administrative assistant position in the City Council office.
“I stood up here and gave reasons — good reasons — to keep the services of the Hammond Public Library in Hammond for the people that you are supposed to be serving,” said Pat Deering, a longtime library worker and union representative.
“You had more emotion tonight for one position than you did for 49 people who are going to be unemployed if the library closes.”
Library Director Rene Greenleaf said she was “appalled” at council members, who didn’t meet with library representatives before the vote.
“Just as you all fought for your secretary, I fight for the Hammond Public Library,” Greenleaf said, “because it’s important.”
Library officials again reiterated their argument that asking for the budget increase would not have impacted city finances.
However, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., in fielding questions about the topic at a Mayor’s Night Out event Wednesday, said the budget increase would have impacted the city because of Indiana’s property tax caps.
McDermott said if the City Council had approved giving the library an extra $800,000, the city would have had to find $800,000 from its departments.
“They want more than what their tax caps allows them. If we gave them more than what the tax cap allows it has to come out of somewhere because we’re capped,” McDermott said. “Everybody is pushed up against the limit.”
McDermott reiterated his plans to ask state lawmakers to consolidate the Hammond library into the Lake County Public Library System.
“It’s a complicated issue,” McDermott said at the event, “and it’s been spun a hundred different ways already. But I want you to know that’s something we all want. We want that library to remain open.”