COVINGTON - Citizens who are concerned about the children's library aren't giving up their fight to improve the facility.
Kim Degonia, spokeswoman for the group, appeared at both the Covington City Council and Board of Commissioners meetings this week to ask local officials to help with fundraising and brainstorm solutions to get the children's room at the Newton County Library functioning at its former level.
Computers in the library are more than a decade old and the carpet is torn and uneven, Degonia said. But the most pressing concern for Degonia and other parents is that there are hundreds of books waiting to be re-shelved and the children's librarian's desk has been removed. Due to cutbacks that have resulted in decreased staffing, the staff member that was before solely dedicated to the children's library now has other duties and there isn't enough staff to keep books shelved at the rate they are being returned.
Although on Monday, more than 30 volunteers came to the library and re-shelved books all day, Degonia said "that's a drop in the bucket" and there are hundreds more to go.
"My children, and I believe, the children of Newton County, need this library to get the education we want them to have," she said.
Degonia proposed a partnership between concerned citizens, the city and county to raise money for the children's library. Degonia said she has private citizens willing to raise funds and asked the city and county to provide matching funds for whatever they raise. The goal is to raise $10,000 over the next year, with a match or a 2:1 match provided by local governments.
"I'm willing to get out there and raise some money, but it won't be enough and I need some matching funds from you all," she told the City Council. She noted that funds raised could not be used for staffing, because "as soon as they money ran out, where would the staff go?" but that the money could be used to make long-term improvements and free up money in the library budget that might be applied to hiring more staff.
But neither governing body committed to additional funds, although several officials -- Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston and Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams and Commissioner Nancy Schulz -- did agree to join a subcommittee proposed by Degonia that will try to find solutions to the problem.
Councilman Chris Smith noted that the city already allocates $30,000 a year to the library, which is a county operation. He said that number has been doubled twice, from $7,500 to $15,000 and then from $15,000 to $30,000.
Councilwoman Janet Goodman said city residents already complain about "double dipping" as they already give money to the library through county taxes and the city provides additional funding.
Johnston suggested getting CEOs of local companies involved, noting that there are local industries that have been good community partners.
"It may be the solution is not necessarily more money; it could be a host of different things," he said. "I'd like to see where the $30,000 is going. I think this process could be the catalyst to get those answers and move that discussion forward."
Degonia agreed that, "A subcommittee doesn't cost anything and it might lead us to some new ideas for how to fund the library."
Degonia proposed that the committee report back to the City Council and BOC within 30 days.