MANTI—A 2-1 vote by the Sanpete County Commission to terminate a contract for bookmobile services in the county has prompted significant opposition on social media.
At the May 18 meeting, Commissioners Reed Hatch and Ed Sunderland voted in favor of termination. Commission Chairman Scott Bartholomew voted against termination and in favor of keeping the bookmobile. The vote just took a few minutes. There was no discussion of the rationale for the action.
In a typical response, posted on a “Sanpete Unity” Facebook page, a citizen wrote, “The worst thing about defunding the bookmobile is that the commissioners are deciding without learning or knowing of the thousands of children, youth and adults of all ages who consistently use bookmobile services.” The citizen noted that the next commission meeting is June 7.
She suggested residents needed to be able to voice their opinions and not rely just on three commissioners “who obviously don’t know how much the county residents and schools rely on our bookmobile.”
While the commissioners did not talk about their reasons before voting, the commissioners, the Sanpete County sheriff, the county auditor and one citizen who was present on an unrelated matter did discuss the bookmobile for about 15 minutes at a meeting May 5.
“This is going to be a tough one,” Bartholomew said at the earlier meeting. “And even though our budget cycle isn’t for a few more months, we are already very concerned about what’s going on with inflation and retaining our good county employees…That’s a really fine balance right there.”
Bartholomew said Jim Erickson, who has directed the Sanpete-Juab County bookmobile for several years, would be retiring soon. “We have to decide…if we want to renew the bookmobile contract.”
Stacy Lyons, county auditor, said that in 2022, the county had budgeted $71,906 out of property tax money for the bookmobile, which also receives support from the two Sanpete County school districts, some local cities and the state.
She said the total Sanpete County taxpayers are scheduled to pay this year out of their school, county and municipal taxes was $90,587.
To put that expenditure in perspective, Lyons said her cost for the bookmobile out of her personal property taxes was $8.30 per year.
“I’m a huge advocate for the bookmobile. I love the bookmobile,” Lyons said. “It goes to the schools, and it has a huge selection of books that’s not available in the school library.”
The citizen who commented said she works at Snow College and has access to the college resources, so she hasn’t used the bookmobile.
But she told the commissioners, “You’re running on some assumptions that everybody’s on the same income level, everybody has the same access, the same resources….There are areas in this community that take great advantage of the bookmobile….For me, $8 isn’t going to save me much on my property tax, and I wouldn’t want to take away some kid’s resource.”
On the other side, Sheriff Jared Buchanan said, “The budget’s tight,…inflation’s going up, and we’re going to continue to try to pinch pennies that we don’t have. We need to save where we can.”
Commissioner Hatch said, “You have books on tape, the Snow College library, the towns have libraries. The bookmobile’s a great service, but there are other places that are already available where you can go get a book…I think you ought to watch what you’re spending.”
At the conclusion of the May 5 discussion, Bartholomew suggested the commission table the matter to find out what the cost of the renewal contract would be and to “get some numbers on who uses it.”
At the follow-up meeting where the vote was taken, Bartholomew said the county cost for the next year would be $73,785, up about $2,000 from the current year. But no data on bookmobile use was presented.