By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
— RUSSIAVILLE – Security officers will be returning to the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.
The board of trustees Monday voted to spend $9,450 for the remainder of the year to either hire off-duty police officers to provide security or contract with a private security company.
Charles Joray, executive director of the library, said there has been an increase in the number of “incidents” reported by staff through the first three months of 2011. He said there were a total of 70 incidents last year – and 68 reported during the first three months of this year.
An incident was defined as a confrontation between a staff member and library patron about behavior in the library.
“When there were off-duty police officers, the number of incidents went down,” Joray said. “The staff feels intimidated by the patrons.”
Joray recommended hiring officers to work 15 hours per week at $18 per hour.
The hours worked by the security officers will be after school is dismissed each day. That is when most of the incidents are taking place, Joray said.
Joray said the officers will work a staggered schedule as in the past and could involve three hours a day for five days, or five hours a day for three days.
Board member Joe Dunlap recommended the library consider hiring a private security firm, which could increase the hours that security officers are available. He said Kokomo-Center schools use a private security company.
Joray said the library would balance the cost with the number of hours worked.
county offer rejected
In other business, the Feasibility Committee recommended the library board reject an offer from Howard County to lease space in the Government Annex.
Board member Susan Luttrell said instead of leasing the basement in the Administration Center, the county offered space now occupied by the Plan Commission for use by the library for materials management.
The county was offering to lease 3,000 square feet at a cost of $7 per square foot, she said. The lease would be for 15 years, and the library would be responsible for utility and janitorial service, as well as remodeling costs.
“We were disappointed with the county’s offer,” she said. “We thought there could be a friendly agreement – like with the school.”
The library leased a school building for $1 per year when the main branch was remodeled.
Luttrell said the library leases 5,000 square feet of space downtown at a cost of $1,000 per month, which includes utilities.
“We want to look at the new lot we purchased downtown,” she said, referring to the parking lot on the southeast corner of Mulberry and Market streets purchased from Howard County last year at a cost of $50,000.
The Feasibility Committee wants to consider building a garage structure for the two bookmobiles and book management on the site.
“We are going to meet with the architect to determine if we can lower the cost,” Luttrell said.
The estimated cost of building office space and a bus garage at the South Branch on Center Road was $1 million, at a time when the library board was hoping to keep the cost below $800,000.
Luttrell said the cost might be lowered if a wooden frame building is constructed as opposed to a steel frame structure.
• Ken de la Bastide is the Kokomo Tribune enterprise editor. He can be reached at 765-454-8580 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org