TREASURE ISLAND — Commissioners here embraced the idea to join four other beach communities to restructure the interlocal agreement that governs and funds the Gulf Beaches Library.

However, Treasure Island City Attorney Jennifer Cowan told commissioners a move to restructure the agreement may not be as easy as city and town members envision.

Cowan and legal counsel from other cities have questions and concerns about a draft agreement designed by Madeira Beach, which hosts the library at 200 Municipal Drive. She advised each municipality can make suggestions, and even approve resolutions requesting changes, but only the library Board of Trustees can vote to adopt revisions to the nonprofit corporation’s bylaws.

Treasure Island’s liaison to the Gulf Beaches Library, Commissioner Deborah Toth, told fellow commissioners it was a request from Madeira Beach to reduce its yearly fee by 25 percent that caused the rancor that resulted in some library board officials resigning and member cities requesting a revised interlocal agreement.

She said future library board members should be elected officials from each city who have “accountability back to the residents.” She asserted Madeira Beach’s representatives to the library board “were not elected officials, so they had no accountability to the commission or the mayor. They were on the library board, but they really didn’t communicate back … and (the issue) is now coming to the point where it needs to be refocused and looked at.”

During the Feb. 2 Treasure Island City Commission work session, City Manager Garry Brumback said discussion about the need to restructure the Gulf Beaches Library occurred at a Jan. 5th meeting of mayors from Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, Redington Beach, Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, the communities that financially support the non-profit corporation that operates the library.

The library’s history on the barrier islands encompasses more than seven decades, spanning back to September 1949 when a committee of six women from the Gulf Beach Woman’s Club started collecting books and eventually established a small one-room library on 140th Avenue in 1952. In 1968, a federal matching grant for a new library building was obtained to construct its current home, which opened a year later near the current Madeira Beach City Hall; in 1988 the library was expanded by 3,600 square feet to bring its total square footage up to 10,000 square feet.

Brumback said the mayors are trying “to reconfigure some of the operations at the Gulf Beaches Library in order to make it a more effective and more inviting place.” Treasure Island’s current funding commitment to the library is $145,322 a year, which is its proportionate share based on population.

Mayor Larry Lunn said the meeting of mayors resulted in a series of suggested changes, including having Madeira Beach draft a new 5-year interlocal agreement and reducing the size of the library Board of Trustees from 10 to five members, one from each beach community. There was also talk about adding an alternate member.

Another big topic for discussion was reducing the library’s cash on hand, with excess funds used to upgrade the technology of the library and modernize the interior of the building. “The present management, I believe, has not upgraded the library facilities in a matter that is consistent with the desire of the five communities,” the mayor said.

Lunn added the library has a great deal of surplus in its reserves “in terms of about a half million dollars that was accumulated by the (library) manager with the expectation that he was going to add square footage to the building” to build a meeting component.

“Yet the library is directly across the street from a Madeira Beach facility and they were willing to offer any kind of services or square footage to have assemblies, so there is no real need for there to be an addition to the library,” Lunn explained.

As a result, mayors attending the meeting suggested in the future, library reserves should not exceed $100,000. Lunn said the difference between the library’s current reserves of about $500,000 and the suggested $100,000 cap “could easily be used in upgrading the library, which would be in the best interest of the users.” Lunn added that under terms of the revised agreement, if the library board was dissolved, remaining funds would be given back to the five cities in proportion to their contribution.

“I quite frankly have said that when I went into the library, I thought I was in the ’50s,” Lunn noted. “It just is not kept up.”

Toth said some library board members resigned after discussion began about restructuring and reducing the size of cash on hand and reserves.

“We do have plans to upgrade the technology in the library and modernize the interior,” Toth told fellow Treasure Island commissioners. She agreed the footprint of the library should not be expanded because modern day Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements do not make it feasible.

She advised the library is organizing a space study and is considering hiring an industrial engineer to evaluate the library’s processes. The library has a roof leak, poorly operating air conditioning system, and is in need of upgrades to its windows and outdoor lighting.

Toth said she does not believe the interlocal draft agreement should be designed solely by Madeira Beach. She would like to see the other communities contribute to the new interlocal agreement in proportion to their contributions to the library, noting Treasure Island is the library’s largest contributor and Madeira Beach is second.

“Even though we are one of the highest contributors to the library, we are one of the lowest users,” she said. Many Treasure Island residents utilize the St. Pete Beach Library.

Cowan, the city attorney, cautioned that Treasure Island is actually part of the Gulf Beaches Library’s non-profit corporation. Merely agreeing to an interlocal agreement with other members would not be binding, because changes require ratification by the library Board of Trustees. “We can pass a resolution that says we support this; we would like the board to consider this, but we can’t force that.”

Cowan told commissioners Madeira Beach has already drafted the interlocal agreement, but she has some concerns with the corporate structure and other items. She is consulting with legal counsel from other member cities, who also have concerns and comments. The agreement “is not at a point where I would recommend you consider it,” she told the mayor.

For example, Cowan said there needs to some definition and process for how the city can leave the agreement, if it so chooses. “Right now, that isn’t clearly defined.”

Lunn told Cowan “it certainly is important that we have a more refined document.”

The city attorney said she will get together with representatives from other cities in an attempt to draft a new interlocal agreement that meets modern standards.

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