A new five-year agreement between the City of Wetaskiwin and Wetaskiwin Public Library board was recently approved by city council despite strong opposition from one of the councillors.
Council discussed the new agreement and its proposed changes during its March 13 meeting, with Coun. Patricia MacQuarrie voting against it.
The previous agreement between the two entities expired Dec. 31, 2016 and the proposed changes of the newly adopted one included: timelines for budget submission being changed to September 30, the city’s contribution to the library board reflecting the current budget, and responsibilities for revenues and expenses clarified.
MacQuarrie was concerned the new agreement gives the city too much control into the library; the library board is meant to operate independent of the city under the Libraries Act. She added having the library connected to the city is in contravention of the act.
“It would take a complete renegotiation of this agreement … between the board and the city,” said MacQuarrie.
“It’s not right but it’s working with the people we have in place,” she added.
Coun. June Boyda agreed the structure of the agreement gave the city more control in the library. However, she did not take issue with the fact. “Right now I don’t see the province coming and saying you’re completely out of line.”
Boyda added a greater separation between the library board and the city would not change the fundamentals of what takes place within the library.
Coun. Wayne Neilson stated the responsibility of library staffing is shifting more to the city side of the ledger, “When the library act is suggesting the board have a greater role.”
He wondered, with the agreement shifting responsibilities between the city and the library board, how the two governing groups would be affected.
Brian McCulloch, director of corporate services, says the city will not see many changes with the new agreement. “The total dollars and total alignment is no different.”
Mayor Bill Elliot says the library board will be limited by the budget approved by the city. “They are not free to do whatever they choose.”
Coun. Joe Branco suggested the city move to one-year agreements with the library board rather than five years. He felt this would eliminate some of the budgeting issues that comes with a five-year agreement.
Boyda explained the contract does not solely deal with budgets but also the roles of the city and library board.
The library board reviewed the proposed agreement Feb. 21, 2017 and agreed to the changes.