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Antigo City Council discusses public library funding and board appointees

The Antigo city council discusses the public library at their meeting
Hannah Davis-Reid
The Antigo city council discusses the public library at their meeting

The Antigo Public Library faces a potential 2025 budget crisis that has concerned many in the area.

Last Tuesday, the Antigo city council met to discuss the current state of the library.

“We're on a fact finding mission. So, my main mission tonight is to make sure the people up here know everything they need to know, to go into that review.”

This was how Antigo’s mayor Terry Brand framed Wednesday’s meeting with the city council.

In the meeting, they discussed county board appointments to the library board, as well as the book challenges process, interim director hiring process, recommendations for the library board, and the library’s budget.

The mayor created a joint task force consisting of three city council members and three county board members to open dialogue between the groups.

“This task force is something, this communication we should’ve had since day one of the library branch opening,” said Brand.

Langlade County Chairman Ben Pierce said that the taskforce was huge and he’s hopeful it will enhance communication.

Since 2020, the library board has changed a lot. A few representatives’ terms expired and Pierce didn’t renew them.

Councilman Tim Kassis, who attended the meeting over zoom, expressed concern over this along with other meeting goers.

“One thing that does disturb me a little bit, is some of the appointments that have been made by the county to the library board. The county went ahead and circumvented the city and put them on the library board,” he said.

Glenn Bugni, an Antigo city councilman, questioned the county board’s motives.

“I think none of us really know what the goal of the county board is, is it to weed the current library collection and remove all books that they feel are inappropriate, according to a list?” said Bugni.

Pierce says that that is not accurate at all.

Multiple people expressed concerns that new appointees to the library board were less experienced than the people who were removed, to the detriment of the library.

Langlade County Chairman Ben Pierce told WXPR that the county chose to not renew their terms because they were not practicing fiscal responsibility.

The library is approaching a funding crisis in 2025 that threatens cuts to hours and services. They haven’t had a funding increase in the past 14 years.

During public comments, Mary Griffin, longtime librarian with 12 years of prior experience on the library board, spoke.

“It really bothers me that after I left the board, there's been no funding increases,” said Griffin.

According to the library, the income that they receive from the city and county for operational expenses like salaries and utilities hasn’t increased because leadership in the city and county wanted the library to use their library board savings before requesting more funds.

However, those savings are normally used for library programs or they’re earmarked by donors.

The library is asking the city and county to increase funding.

Pierce says the library’s been overfunded, over-budgeted, and doesn’t exhaust their funds each year.

The county doesn’t decide on their 2025 budget until June or July, so Brand and Pierce both said that evaluations of the library’s 2025 outlooks are premature.

“This dog got shot out of the doghouse way in advance. This body was not given the chance to respond to a question of ‘we need more money, will you give us more money?’” said Brand.

Chet Haatvedt, an Antigo resident, told WXPR that he was pleased that the city held the meeting in the first place.

“This is the first public open meeting that we've had an opportunity to discuss a lot of the concerns. I think too many of them have been in closed session,” said Haatvedt

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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