CREATED Sep. 19, 2012 - UPDATED: Sep. 19, 2012
FORT MYERS BEACH - Some Fort Myers Beach residents fired up about paying 9-million dollars to expand the Beach's library. They say the project is a money pit and taxpayers have been kept in the dark about how their money is being spent. Four in your Corner's Mike Mason getting both sides of this one tonight.
The new renovations at this library are stunning and the building is beautiful but some wonder if it's a good use of taxpayer money....especially when everything is going digital.
The Fort Myers Beach library is now about 19,000 square feet bigger than it was before, the 3rd floor has conference rooms....even a coffee bar.....but these new perks cost taxpayers $9 million dollars.
Jim Stevens: "The taxpayers have never had a voice in the size of the library, the cost of the library or anything else at this point.”
Mike Mason: "So is that cost excessive?"
Jim Stevens: "Yes, it is."
Jim Stevens and Bruce Butcher are seeking seats on the library board this November. They say previous elections were never properly publicized and board members often ran unopposed. If elected, they plan to throw the book at the current administration.
Bruce Butcher: "I would much rather have seen my tax dollars going to fixing Estero Boulevard than expanding the library or fixing the water problems on Fort Myers Beach."
Each year taxpayers on the Beach and some sections of Lee County are required to pay a library tax, whether they use it or not. Bruce and Jim say many folks had no idea they spent 9 million dollars to expand the library.
Jim Stevens: "They feel if they had a referendum or if they had competitive elections that this building would not be built because they would have voted against it."
The library board holds public business meetings but Jim and Bruce say hardly anyone attends them because they don't know about them. Library Director, Leroy Hommerding, tells us those meetings are posted on the library's website.
Mike Mason: "If people don't know about your website how do they know there's even going to be a meeting?”
Leroy Hommerding: "We publish the legal ad, notice of the meeting in the Newspress."
Mike Mason: "How many people go to the legal section of the Newspress to look for a meeting?"
Leroy Hommerding: "Everything gets down to how much effort do people make?"
The Director maintains most people do support the library's expansion. We should also note, the library is independent, meaning the Town of Fort Myers Beach and Lee County has no jurisdiction over how its money is spent.