Aug 062010
 

An Open Letter To Western Union County Residents:

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Waxhaw Board Of Commissioners meeting and listen to a presentation concerning a proposal for a western Union County Library located in Waxhaw.

The presentation was given by a Ms. Jan M. Ringeling, SFR of RE/Max Executive Realty. I believe the developer she was representing was in attendance. I listened to Ms. Ringeling’s positive variables concerning this Waxhaw location,and when she was finished she requested that the Waxhaw Board meet with her in closed session to discuss the financial aspects.

The Board was unsure about meeting with her in closed session, but then agreed to meet with Ms. Ringeling and the group she was representing. My immediate thought was, where is the transparency concerning further discussion on this matter?

It was my understanding that the Union County Board of Commissioners were the decision makers concerning funding and where and when a western Union County Library would be built. At the conclusion of Ms. Ringeling’s presentation, I had the opportunity to address the Board during public comments. I attempted to point out that the western Union County library should be in a location with more county residents.

The total population of western Union County (U.S. Census 2008, deemed correct) is 27,770. The break down is as follows: Wesley Chapel: 6,299, Weddington: 11,400, Marvin: 4,096, Waxhaw: 3,975, and Mineral Springs: 2,000.

Yes, only 14 % of the Western Union County’s population lives in Waxhaw! Where would you locate the library?

I think you would support building this library in a location which would provide access and convenience to all western Union County residents.

Finally, there is a Western Union County Coalition composed of leaders of the above towns. In 2009, these leaders came to an agreement concerning future transportation needs (they won an award from the Centralina Council Of Governments for their efforts). This would be an excellent issue for this coalition to reach an agreement relative to a library location. They could then pass their recommendation on to the Union County Board of Commissioners.

Werner Thomisser, Councilman
Weddington Town Council
704-654-6100

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  7 Responses to “Library Is Located Incorrectly”

  1. It is disturbing that this Weddington vs. The Rest of Us Here in the West war is starting up anew.

    I first was made aware of Weddington’s desire to strip southwestern Union County of its promised library facilities when Mayor Anderson made a brief presentation to the Board of County Commissioners on June 21, 2010, essentially dismissing those of us outside of Weddington and Wesley Chapel who feel that we, too, are deserving of County library services.

    Then, at the most recent meeting (on August 6, 2010) of the coalition of western municipal leaders that Councilman Thomisser mentioned, he again brought up the issue and presented his population numbers. His intent was clearly to gain support for a Weddington-centered library, and I had no choice but to go on record stating that I could not in good conscience advocate against my municipality of Mineral Springs.

    I may be “behind the curve” on this issue, as county dollars have been stretched thinner and thinner, but my recollection of the county’s original library plan was that it proposed a new branch library in Weddington – which, with a lot of local support, was to be located near the Weddington Town Hall at the intersection of Highways 16 and 84 – and a new Waxhaw branch library to be located fairly near the Waxhaw Branch’s current location near the intersection of Highways 16 and 75. Unfortunately, certain factions in county government began, a few years ago, unwisely contemplating some sort of single “Monster” branch library located far north of the current Waxhaw location, and scrapping the long-held plans for two individual, smaller branches.

    Where do we stand right now?

    I’m not sure…but based on the tone of Mayor Anderson’s and Councilman Thomisser’s comments, it is looking more and more as if somebody – I’m not sure who – is still proposing a single branch to replace Waxhaw’s branch and serve Weddington…and place it in Weddington at the expense of present and future library patrons in the southwestern part of the county.

    Municipal population statistics are fine, but this is a County library system, and there are thousands of county taxpayers who live south of Waxhaw and Mineral Springs who depend – and are entitled to depend – upon a Waxhaw branch library.

    Currently, the largest branch library – Union West in Indian Trail – is located only three miles from parts of Weddington and Wesley Chapel, and is only seven miles from the “center” of Weddington at Highways 16 and 84. Meanwhile, the closest corner of Mineral Springs is located seven miles from the Monroe Main Library; parts of Mineral Springs are located twelve miles from the Monroe branch. Add these Mineral Springs residents to the non-municipal residents and then throw in the residents of “old” Waxhaw, and suddenly tens of thousands of county residents are facing loss of a convenient and accessible library in Waxhaw, while Weddington leaders seem to be pushing for a “No Part of Weddington Shall Be Further than Four Miles From a County Library” policy, relegating a county resident who lives near JAARS or Cane Creek Park to a 15-mile trek to a Weddington branch.

    I was not present at the Waxhaw meeting that Councilman Thomisser described, so I don’t know what location Ms. Ringeling was promoting. However, Union County offials seemed to be contemplating a Cureton-area site for their “Monster” branch, and if Ms. Ringeling was proposing anything like that, it would be a cure far worse than the disease. The idea of creating a single “Monster” facility, guaranteed to be as far away from and as inconvenient for as many County residents as possible is horrifying. Even though such a location is technically “in Waxhaw”, it is not a suitable location for a Waxhaw branch.

    Recent history would suggest that the original dual-location (Waxhaw and Weddington) plan is still the adopted county plan, and this is the plan that we should stick with. Every taxpayer in Union County knows that tax dollars are in particularly short supply right now, so we should be looking at ways to accomplish the two-library plan at an affordable price. One idea, supported by County Commissioner Openshaw, would acquire two sites with room ror expansion, build two libraries on those sites based on floor plans that, by design, were flexible and easily and economically expandable, and start with square-footage amounts that were smaller than the ultimate buildout need. Forget the 20,000-square-feet per location; build six thousand square feet, or eight thousand, for now. Create the core of the facility and operate two branches that do not carry either an overwhelming capital cost or a burdensome operating cost.

    The Mineral Springs town council already adopted a resolution several years ago, supporting a new Waxhaw Branch “on the Mineral Springs side of Waxhaw”. Council will consider readopting a similar resolution of support at its August 12 meeting, in the hope that a site near the current Waxhaw Branch is ultimately chosen. Nothing in council’s – or my – support of the Waxhaw branch should be construed as supporting exclusion of Weddington as a location for the other branch. We need to support both constituencies: the municipal populations of Weddington, Wesley Chapel, and Marvin, as well as the municipal populations of Waxhaw and Mineral Springs and the unincorporated southwestern corner of Union County. This is not a dichotomy. Two branches are still a possibility, as long as no one constituency advocates for keeping the whole pie for itself.

    I don’t see Weddington and Mineral Springs as being adversaries here, nor do I want to see our respective elected officials becoming “enemies”. While municipal officials’ first obligation is to their own constituents, the obligation that is a very close second is our obligation to the regional well-being of all of our residents.

  2. Libraries are rather expensive to operate and none of us knows what we’ll be driving or how much it will cost per mile to get there over the next 30 or 40 years.

    For those reasons I doubt that anyone from Mineral Springs or Waxhaw wants to be stuck with driving all the way to Marvin or Weddington and vice versa to go to the library.

    I also have a little different take on what the current population is for a library located somewhere within the five towns area. My current estimate for the population that would be served by such a regional library is around 40 percent of the population of Union County. This includes not only the population of the five towns but also the surrounding un-incorporated areas of Union County.

    Here’s my take on the current population. On June 30, 2009 our Board of Elections published the registered voter statistics by precinct for each of the fourteen mmunicipalities in Union County in preparation for the fall municipal elections. For the five towns they were as follows:
    Marvin – 2921 registered voters
    Mineral Springs – 1929 registered voters
    Waxhaw – 5344 registered voters
    Weddington – 6980 registered voters
    Wesley Chapel – 4887 registered voters

    Typically 60 to 62 percent of the population in Union County is registered to vote. Thus dividing the above voter registration numbers by 0.61 I expect the population of each of the five towns to be somewhere near:
    Marvin – 4789
    Mineral Springs – 3162
    Waxhaw – 8761
    Weddington – 11,443
    Wesley Chapel – 8011
    Total Population Estimate for five towns is – 36,166

    However, the population within these five towns lies wholly or partially within some eighteen precincts in Union County as follows:
    Marvin – Pcts. 28A, 28B, 28C and 28D
    Mineral Springs – Pcts. 7, 19, 20B and 33
    Waxhaw – Pcts. 20A, 20B, 28D and 33
    Weddington – Pcts. 17B, 18, 40, 41 and 28A(Meadowbrook subdivision)
    Wesley Chapel – Pcts. 17A, 17B, 19, 20B, 29A, 29C, 31, 40 and 42

    When I look at the Aug 2, 2010 Board of Elections statistical report I see that these eighteen precincts have a current registered voter population of 49,617. Again dividing by 0.61 I come up with an approximate population of 81,339. This number is 40.6 percent of 200,000 which I presume is about the current population of Union County. To me this is closer to the population that would be served by such a library.

    For my money a central location for such a library would be either somewhere along Prividence Road in the area bounded by Precinct 28A or along New Town Road in the area at the confluence of Precincts 41, 17B, 28A and 20B; e.g., at the intersection with Twelve Mile Creek Rd.

    I have no idea if any land is or would be available in either area – it’s just that these locations appears to be somewhat of a geographic center for all the precincts mentioned above.

    We need a civic minded person with deep pockets and some land near either of these areas.

  3. There are already enough libraries in Union County that cost way too much taxpayer money. Instead of building new we should be closing some like other areas. This is one Wesley Chapel taxpayer who says enough of this constant waste of taxpayer money to please newcomers.

  4. In my previous post I could have added somewhere along Waxhaw Indian Trail Rd between Route 84 and New Town Rd as a good location as well. To me the central location is somewhere in the western/southwestern part of Wesley Chapel.

    Mr Gillock’s point that libraries are expensive to operate for extended hours at a time is true. Budgets at times in the next 30 to 40 years will probably be just as tight as they are now if not worse. Perhaps some sort of not for profit library association to fund fifty percent of the cost with a library board of directors made up of County and association members would help.

    Again balance is what should be sought.

  5. While both Councilman Thomisser and Mr. Hendry have presented valid population analyses, I still believe that the issue hinges on the decision between two strategically-located library branches, as Union County’s longstanding library master plan recommends, or one “monster” library branch.

    I should love Mr. Hendry’s Waxhaw Indian Trail Road suggestion: such a site would be only four miles from the center of Mineral Springs! But it’s also only 6.5 miles from the current Union West branch in Indian Trail; such overlap of service areas seems wasteful, especially in light of the county’s current financial position. And, worst of all, thousands of residents of Waxhaw and unincorporated Union County south of Waxhaw and Mineral Springs would become completely disenfranchised in terms of library services if the current Waxhaw branch were closed; such closure is part of any new library strategy.

    What this discussion does demonstrate, I think, is the sheer folly of the idea of one “monster” library intended to serve the entire western side of the county. It is difficult to equitably serve a population of 81,000 people living in an area of over 150 square miles with only a single library branch. A library is not a Super WalMart; increased size does not make up for a location that is inappropriate for so many taxpayers. The question came up before: if “economy of scale” is always so beneficial, why haven’t we built just one elementary school to serve the roughly 4,000 five- through twelve-year-old children who live in that same 150-square-mile area?

    Libraries – now more than ever – serve families. Preschool children can benefit from story-hour programs. Elementary-aged children can attend a library with their parents while learning invaluable lifelong lessons about the history of information and literacy. High-school students and adults can conduct basic research for school, for work, for pleasure, for comunity projects, and they may actually learn that yes, there are things out there that can’t come through an i-Phone. Senior citizens can find activities and resources at a library that continue to enrich their lives long after they have retired and their children have had children of their own.

    But these resources and activities work best when the library is also a part of a smaller community, a “cozy” niche where patrons of all ages can feel “at home”. These resources work best when our families – especially seniors or those with young children – aren’t forced to drive fifteen, twenty miles each way to access the resources. The library is something that somebody can grow up with, a familiar place filled with familiar faces that all work together to make the library a centerpiece of the community’s education, recreation, and civic interaction.

    Councilman Thomisser and Mr. Hendry are attempting to answer the wrong question. The right question is: “where can we best site two smaller, expandable branch libraries to most equitably serve these 81,000 people in this 150-square-mile area?” Building one “monster” library located so that it adequately serves, maybe, 40,000 of those people while leaving 40,000 of them “out in the cold” is not the way to go.

  6. In the past month we (in Weddington) have had a charity event on the Hunter Farm property (Mayor Anderson’s property). The charity is known as Kids First.

    Kids Firsts was to raise money through vendor payments and with local business sponsorships

    Then I must ask this question of our leaders Why is Weddington paying this group $11,000.00 of our tax’s dollars….When did the tax payers’ of Weddington begin to support charities.

    Just another bad move by our Mayor.

  7. Within 5 years there will be about as much need for libraries as there is for cassette tapes.

    Tablet PCs will place every book in the world in the hands of the kids, and there will be absolutely no use whatsoever to warehouse pieces of paper (books) and pay people to rack and stack them.

    Don’t waste taxpayer money by building something that is already obsolete. Even commercial bookstores like Barnes and Noble are going bankrupt. Amazon.com said it sold more online books for the Kindle than it did paper books, and that was THIS YEAR. Oh and you might have noticed that Blockbuster is going bankrupt, now that everyone can download movies or get them at those little soda-machine sized machines in front of grocery stores.

    The age of chopping down trees to read text on is over. Get with the times.

    No library in the USA should ever be built in the future. ZERO. Not a single taxpayer cent should ever be spent on them again.

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