Salem proposes change to 9 member library board plan

Photo by Sanja Gjenero via

Photo by Sanja Gjenero via

The Salem Town Board has proposed yet another configuration of the the Community Library Board.

This one will have nine members, including one member representing local high school districts. Salem would have four members, but give up one seat to the school representative. Twin Lakes would have two members and Silver Lake, Paddock Lake and Randall one each. After Salem and Silver Lake merge as a single village, Salem would absorb the Silver Lake seat.

The latest arrangement was approved unanimously by the Salem board at a special meeting on Monday.

The issue of how to apportion representation on the joint library’s board has been being kicked around for over a year. There is now urgency to wrap up the issue before the state withholds state funding.

Currently, each member municipality has two representatives on the library board. That is in conflict with state statutes, which say joint library boards should have membership that reflects the relative populations of its members. While this has been essentially ignored for years, in 2015 the possibility that the state might withhold funding until the representation is corrected arose. Salem, the municipality with the largest population, offered a side agreement where it would appoint some of its representatives to other municipalities to bring the representation in effect back to two a piece. Salem town administrator Patrick Casey said the town received a verbal go ahead from the state Department of Public Instruction that the side agreement would be OK. Paddock Lake officials questioned the legality of that move and ultimately received a written opinion from a DPI official saying the side agreement would not be valid. They put forward a proposal for a 10-member board apportioned by municipal population and keeping one rotating seat from the two high school districts. Twin Lakes, Randall and Silver Lake were willing to approve that arrangement, but Salem balked, saying they did not see the need for the school board member and proposed a nine-member board. Paddock Lake questioned DPI about that arrangement and was told via email that the school representative was required.

At issue if the Community Library is not brought into compliance with state statues would be about $398,000 in state aid to the county library system, a portion of which goes to the Community Library, said a recent email from Barbara Brattin, director of the county library system, to the municipalities. If the Community Library is not brought into compliance with state law, the rest of the county library system — the Kenosha Public Library — may seek to join another library system as the county system could not stand on its own without the Community Library.

At a committee of the whole meeting last week, Paddock Lake Village Board members said they still backed their 10-member board plan. A resolution is on the Paddock Lake Village Board’s regular meeting agenda for Wednesday asking Salem to approve a 10-member governing board, which Paddock Lake favors, or submit a 9-member proposal to Paddock Lake. Paddock Lake would approve the 9-member board if the other municipalities will, but the Paddock Lake board then is also proposing that in that instance the village leave the Community Library. But at least the system would again be in compliance with state statutes and remove the threat of losing state funding.

That approach by Paddock Lake was based on the idea that Salem would be looking for a nine member board where each municipality would give up a seat to the school board rep on a rotating basis. It’s not clear whether they would back Salem’s latest proposal where only Salem will give up a seat to the school rep.

What was clear at Monday’s Salem meeting was the frustration among Town Board members over the ongoing issue.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Supervisor Dennis Faber. “I’ve had it up to here.”


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