After a marathon meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting, Commisison Chairman Paul Higdon read a prepared statement regarding the county’s decsion to remain as a partner of the Fontana Regional Library System. At the beginning of the meeting, Commissioner Higdon announced that before the board adjourned, the commissioners would be releasing a joint public statement regarding their current stance on the library. Although the statement was prepared and ready at the beginning of the commissioner’s meeting when nearly 200 people were in attendance, Commissioner Higdon elected not to share the public statement until close to midnight after the board met during a closed session.
The April meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners lasted until midnight on Tuesday with 45 people signed up to address commissioners during the public comment period. Due to the number of people signed up to speak, paired with the lengthy agenda, Chairman Higdon announced at the beginning of the meeting that the public comment period would be limited to 45 minutes, with speakers being allowed 5 minutes each to speak. At the end of the 45 minutes, regardless of how many people were afforded the opportunity to address the board, public comment period ended and commissioners moved to take up the night’s agenda items.
Commissioner Higdon initially said that anyone who had signed up to speak during public comment and were not able to, would be moved to next month’s board meeting and given an opportunity to speak then. However, Commissioner Josh Young made a motion to move the remaining public comment period to the end of the agenda business items, and anyone who remained at the meeting at the conclusion of scheduled business could address the board then. Commissioners unanimously agreed with Commissioner Young.
Between the two public comment periods, dozens of people addressed the board over a myriad of issues with the majority of comments revolving around the more than two-year long debate regarding the Macon County Public Library.
Last month, Macon County Commissioner Danny Antoine addressed commissioners and said after the library limited public input during a meeting, he was “100% in support” of ending the agreement with the Fontana Regional System all to gather and alluded to the fact that the believed other commissioners were agreeable to leaving the regional system but needed time to iron out the details as to how to make that happen. During Tuesday night’s meeting, after commissioners limited public input during their own meeting, Commissioner Antoine clarified that as an individual he supported leaving the library, however he was not speaking on behalf of the entire board of commissioners.
The statement read following a closed session discussion of commissioners stated, “The Fontana Regional Library Agreement entered into in 2013 requires that the three participating counties, Jackson, Macon, and Swain revisit the structure of the FRL every 10 years. In compliance with that agreement, the three managers met on Thursday, April 6, and discussed what was working and what needed improvement. It was unanimously agreed that the Regional Agreement is beneficial to all three counties and their citizens, but improvement is needed in the areas of parental empowerment and governance of the FRL system.”
According to the statement, Higdon said that while Macon County will remain in the Regional Library System, they are working with the other counties to look into:
1. Provisions which will give parents greater ability to set restrictions over what materials their minor children may check out while still remaining in compliance with the law.
2. The structure and authority of the respective local county library boards and the Regional board.
“Because the structure of each of the libraries affected is different, this will take a little time to enable each county to evaluate the structure that it has in place,” read the prepared statement from the Macon County Board of Commissioners. “The hope is that we will be able to present these proposed revisions to the local agreement to the three Commissioner Boards by mid to late August.”