Oakmont library needs to spend more to keep its state, county funds
Repeated flooding, heating and cooling system problems, building maintenance and other repairs have knocked Oakmont Carnegie Library’s budget out of compliance with guidelines it must meet to receive funding from the state and Allegheny County.
“Whenever we needed extra money for the building, the books budget was touched,” library Director Beth Mellor said. “A couple years it was the roof leaking. Two years in a row we had a flood downstairs. We had to replace flooring, walls repainted, mold removal, all of that.”
The library’s lower-level community rooms flooded twice in 2016 and again last summer, each costing tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.
As a result, Oakmont has not been spending at least 12 percent of its operating budget on books, magazines, DVDs and other related materials, which is a requirement to receive state and Allegheny Regional Asset District funds.
Mellor said she received notification through the Allegheny County Library Association to come into compliance next year or possibly lose the $140,000 the library receives annually from those sources to update its collection. The last time the Oakmont library was in compliance was 2010.
The library’s budget this year is $549,314, including $290,000 from Oakmont, with $100,000 of that used for payment on a $1.4 million loan in 2003 for expansion and renovations. Mellor said $13,300 more is needed to be able to purchase enough materials to reach the 12 percent mark. It is currently spending about 9 percent on new materials, she said.
Oakmont Councilman Justin Lokay wants the borough to up its contribution so the library can reach that threshold.
“It doesn’t really make much sense that we wouldn’t put ourselves into compliance,” Lokay said. “We have money in our budget that’s doing nothing.”
He said council could pull the money from a 2014 account that has a little more than $27,000. It was originally established for a traffic light at College Avenue and Allegheny River Boulevard that was estimated to cost around $500,000, but the work was never done.“It’s investing in children’s literacy. It’s investing in our seniors. It’s investing in local businesses, because the library brings in people,” he said. “We have the money to give and if we make the decision not to, I think that’s sad.”Lokay plans to introduce the additional spending as a motion at council’s meeting on March 19.
“Our budget was set at the end of December,” Mellor said. “It would be wonderful for the community if we could really upgrade the collection and put stuff in that people want.”