Park Twp., TR Library at impasse over final payment

Township: City will have to ‘take the township to court’ to get more in payment

PARK TWP. — Legal action could now be the next chapter in the fight between Park Township and the Three Rivers Public Library.

In a statement Wednesday, Park Township officials indicated the City of Three Rivers would have to “take the township to court” if they want more money than the township sent in its final payment to the library.

The announcement comes after the Three Rivers Public Library Board said during their May 25 meeting they would hold the final payment check from Park Township for library services in the first four months of 2021 while they consider legal opinion on whether or not to accept it. This was due to what the board described as a discrepancy between what the library was anticipating the township would pay them and what the township actually paid.

Park Township paid $4,704.90 as their final payment to the library, which was calculated based on their interpretation of what the township described as a “bare bones” 2005 library services contract, paying the 3/10 mil state taxable value portion of the contracted funding based on properties in the Three Rivers Community Schools district. However, Interim Library Director Bobbi Schoon said during the May 25 meeting the library billed the township $7,279.27, based on their interpretation where the taxable value portion comes from all properties in the township.

The contract between the two entities expired April 30 after negotiations fell through on a revised contract, with Park Township residents being considered non-resident borrowers, meaning they would have to pay to have a library card.

In the release, the township said the library “would rather leave money on the table than admit that they are wrong,” and claimed they were first made aware of the funding issue in an August 2020 Commercial-News article on the library board meeting where it was first publicly discussed. However, the library previously claimed back in their July 2020 meeting there were discussions happening about the issue with the township as early as January 2020, with discussions stalling in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The township said in its statement the latest turn of events “once again pits Park Township as the one making the fuss,” reiterated that the township has never levied a library tax to pay for services – they have been using general fund dollars to pay the contracted amounts to the library – and said the township has used its calculation since “at least 2005.” It claimed that the decision to “reinterpret a contract that was signed in 2005” was made by the city.

“Only two people have served in the position of Township Clerk for the last 16 years and they have used the same formula the entire time,” the statement read. “In fact, there were no issues raised respecting how the library funding from Park Township was calculated until the library moved into a new, larger and more expensive building. The Township’s calculation method continued until the contract with the library ended, effective April 30, 2021. The Township saw no need to consider a ‘new’ formula for a 16-year-old library contract.”

The township in their statement recounted their offers to the library over the past several months, including their latest offer, rejected by the library board, to pay a flat $15,000 per year from its general fund in addition to penal fines collected in the township, an offer the township says was “in an effort to streamline the calculation method.” The township stated that while rejecting the offer, the library and the city established “its own lack of knowledge as to library funding by stating that the Township has to contribute in order for it to be eligible for ‘state aid.’”

In the end, the township said in its statement, Park Township residents who still want to utilize the Three Rivers library are “the real losers in this situation,” and that the library has lost a “significant revenue source.”

“The City of Three Rivers Library’s failure to recognize that Park Township was willing to pay something, just not the amount they had calculated based on a formula that has no support in fact or law; placed Park Township residents who still wish library privileges at the City Library into the status of ‘non-resident borrower’ in which they must purchase library cards. Thus, they are the real losers in this situation,” the statement read.

In a statement to the Commercial-News, Library Board President Julie Keefer said the board is “interested in moving forward in positivity and focusing on supporting our community,” and that they ultimately remain open to negotiations with the township in the future. Keefer added that the check was withheld to allow the library “an opportunity to reach out to [the township] to gain a better understanding of the formula used” for the payment, and claimed that Schoon reached out to the township on May 27 asking for clarification, and have “received no response.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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