Community Government Opinion

Hellertown Area Library Sends Proposal to Lower Saucon Council

Hellertown Library

A proposal for a possible library services agreement was shared Monday with the members of Lower Saucon Township Council and Saucon Source by Hellertown Area Library board president Ken Solt.

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Note: The following proposal for a possible library services agreement was shared Monday with the members of Lower Saucon Township Council and Saucon Source by Hellertown Area Library board president Ken Solt. Solt said he tried and was unable to have a discussion about it placed on the agenda for council’s next meeting, which will be held this Wednesday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Lower Saucon Town Hall. The library and the township have been in negotiations over library services since council voted 4-1 in January to donate $50,000 to the library instead of approving a new five-year agreement worth approximately $500,000. The library board subsequently rejected the donation–in addition to forging a new agreement with Hellertown borough–and the agreement that had been in place with the township expired. Township residents are permitted to continue using the Hellertown Area Library as negotiations continue; negotiations in which the state Office of Commonwealth Libraries is also involved.

March 14, 2022

Dear Lower Saucon Township Council,

In the spirit of community and with a goal of continued collaboration between Lower  Saucon Township and the Hellertown Area Library as well as in a good faith effort to serve the best interest of our patrons and your residents, the Library presents the following proposal for your review. Should the terms outlined below not be satisfactory, we look forward to receiving a written counter proposal from you that would attract a majority vote on the Township Council. We respectfully request your timely feedback.

The key points of our proposal are as follows:

  • Lower Saucon Township and the Hellertown Area Library Association would enter into a written agreement under which the Library would continue providing free library services to Township residents on the same terms and conditions previously in effect, and the Township would continue to provide financial support to the Library through 2022. The agreement would be effective as of Feb. 1, 2022, and then automatically expire at the end of 2022 with no further action required by either party.
  • Provided there is no objection from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries or the local Library District, the agreement would be bilateral–only between the Township and the Library.
  • Currently of the total of seven members on the Library Board of Directors, two are appointed by the Library Board and those two appointees are Lower Saucon Township residents. As an offer of collaboration and to comply with library standards, subject to obtaining the approval of Hellertown Borough, the Township would be granted the power to appoint one additional member to the Library Board for 2022, and the Library’s by-laws would be updated to reflect the Township’s appointment powers.
  • The per capita amount previously requested by the Library, or $9.66 per capita (representing a cost-of-living increase over the rate of $8.37 agreed upon in 2016), would be the funding level required of the Township. For services rendered in February and March as well as services for the remainder of 2022, the total is $98,237.37, or $8,930.67 per month. A catch-up payment for the months of February and March, or $17,861.34, would be due upon the parties entering into the written agreement. Thereafter, for the  remaining nine months of 2022, monthly payments of $8,930.67 would be paid by the Township to the Library.
  • The Library would retain the portion of the annual state funding allocated to Township residents that was received by the Library in February 2022. The Library would not seek to remove the Township from its direct service area with an effective date prior to Jan. 1, 2023.
  • The Township would rescind its previous threat of a lawsuit and agree not to sue the Library upon the termination of the 2022 agreement, including but not limited to the conclusion of the 2016-2021 or 2022 agreements, the removal of the Township from the Library’s direct service area on or after Jan. 1, 2023, and the termination of free library services to Township residents on or after Jan. 1, 2023. Each party would, however, retain the right to enforce the terms of the 2022 agreement.
  • Should the Township wish to discuss an extension of Township support and free library services for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2023, the Township may do so by contacting Ken Solt, Library Board President. Agreement upon any such arrangement to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023 must be in place by July 1, 2022. Should no future agreement be reached the Library would, when completing its request for state funds to be received in 2023, seek to have the Township removed from its library direct service area.
  • This proposal shall not be deemed an “offer” which can be made a binding agreement by acceptance. This proposal is conditioned upon and subject to all the terms being documented in a final written agreement which is acceptable to the Library and approved by the Library Board of Directors.

Members of Lower Saucon Township Council have at times expressed a need for certain financial information concerning the Library. If there is particular financial documentation you require prior to entering into an agreement for 2022 as described above, please provide a written list of such documentation at your earliest convenience and the Library will evaluate your request.

Hellertown Library

The Hellertown Area Library has been embroiled in a dispute with Lower Saucon Township officials that began when Lower Saucon Township Council voted 4-1 to reject a new 5-year agreement with the library in January. In lieu of that agreement, council authorized a $50,000 donation to the HAL and a separate $50,000 donation to the Southern Lehigh Public Library; funding which both libraries have so far declined. At the same Jan. 19 meeting, Lower Saucon Council also authorized a lawsuit against the HAL if it denies township residents access to its programs and services. In an ensuing intramunicipal conflict, Hellertown Borough Council voted to pause all borough agreements with the township for a review. (FILE PHOTO)

We respectfully request that you respond to this proposal in writing on or before March 21, 2022. This proposal shall be considered automatically withdrawn if we have not received a written response by that date.

The Library Board believes it would be in the best interests of the Township, the Library and the residents of both Hellertown Borough and Lower Saucon Township for there to be stability and predictability regarding the library services that will be available to Township residents through 2022 and the financial support that the Library will receive from the Township during 2022. We believe a written agreement between the parties for 2022 on the terms described above is the best way to go about achieving that predictability.

Respectfully submitted, 

Ken Solt
President, Hellertown Area Library Association Board of Directors

About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

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