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HAMMOND | The Hammond Public Library gained access Monday to the funds necessary to repair the broken air-conditioning system and complete other maintenance items at its downtown building.

The Hammond City Council voted 7-0 to allow the library to use $526,041 in funds, with the majority coming from the library's rainy day fund.

Library Director Rene Greenleaf said she appreciated the council's vote and thanked those who worked to ensure the library received permission to use its funding.

“We are confident in what was given,” Greenleaf said.

The vote concluded months of budgetary talks between the library and the City Council, after council members originally struck down the library's 2013 budget proposal in September over concerns of potential impacts to city finances because of the state's property tax caps.

The decision meant the library had to work off a budget $800,000 less than what it requested, which left enough money to operate the library at 564 State St. but not enough to fund maintenance needs, according to Library Board President Paul Taylor.

A change in state law required the City Council to review the library's budget for the first time this year because the library's board is appointed and not elected.

Library officials consistently argued to council members it had the funding available to pay for the maintenance items but couldn't use the money without City Council support.

Ending the months-long gridlock was Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. suggesting to the City Council in April to reconsider a request from the library.

“This has been a long, hard process,” Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-at large, said after Monday's vote. “Hopefully next year everyone is on the same page and we can get this handled quickly.”

The future of the Hammond library became a hot topic at Mayor's Night Out, a public question and answer session routinely held by McDermott.

McDermott had asked the Indiana General Assembly to consolidate the Hammond library into the Lake County Public Library system, citing savings for Hammond property taxpayers, but legislation failed to move forward this session.

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