Lyon County votes support for Plum Creek libraries

MARSHALL – The Lyon County Board took action Tuesday to withdraw at least some funding from the Marshall-Lyon County Library, opting instead to put state-required maintenance of effort payments toward libraries that are still members of the Plum Creek Regional Library System. Commissioners also passed a motion declaring the county’s intent to withdraw from a partnership agreement with the city of Marshall and the library.

There’s still a tangle of other issues to be worked out, however. It’s still not clear how other libraries in Lyon County will be affected by the board’s decision, and what will come out of continued talks between the county, the library board and the city of Marshall.

Commissioners discussed a few different issues related to MLCL during their regular meeting on Tuesday. First, they received MLCL’s draft budget proposal for 2015. The draft included a total of about $896,000 in funding revenue from the city of Marshall and Lyon County, with the county contributing about $303,000 of the total. Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg noted that was a 13 percent increase from 2014 funding levels.

Commissioners questioned whether MLCL could find ways to reduce costs – “I think 13 percent is a little excessive,” said Commissioner Charlie Sanow. However, the discussion quickly turned to the question of whether the county would continue to give MLCL its maintenance-of-effort funding for public libraries.

“I think we need to make some decision today,” said County Board Chairman Rick Anderson. Anderson and other commissioners said it seemed clear to them that state laws require Lyon County to support a library or libraries that are part of a regional library system.

The state currently calculates Lyon County’s minimum maintenance of effort to support public libraries at more than $200,000 a year. When MLCL was part of the Plum Creek system, the county took care of its maintenance of effort requirements by funding MLCL. But MLCL voted to leave Plum Creek this June, and commissioners said they’d have to find another way to meet requirements.

Stomberg pointed out that state aid for Lyon County will take a substantial decrease in 2015. It likely won’t be feasible for the county to fund maintenance of effort at other libraries while still funding MLCL at past levels, he said.

Sanow moved that the county put its maintenance of effort funds toward Plum Creek member libraries like those in Minneota and Tracy but still try to help the MLCL branch libraries in Cottonwood and Balaton, if they are hurt by the funding change.

“I don’t want to see them lose their services,” Sanow said.

The motion passed 4-1, with Commissioner Mark Goodenow casting the dissenting vote. A motion for the county to declare its intent to withdraw from its partnership with the city of Marshall and MLCL also passed along the same lines.

At the same time, however, commissioners also said Tuesday they’d be willing to participate in a joint committee with the city and library board, aimed at conflict resolution with Plum Creek or some kind of future plan for MLCL. In the past week, members of the Marshall City Council and the MLCL Board both said yes to working together.

In other business, commissioners voted to deny a request for legal defense for a former employee of Lincoln, Lyon and Murray Human Services. A pending lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleges that in 2010, the former employee, Janet Patten, looked up a Rochester woman’s private motor vehicle records without a work-related reason.

Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said legal counsel for Lincoln, Lyon and Murray Counties recommended the commissioners deny the request. Patten was an employee of LLMHS and not the county, the recommendation said, so the county had no duty to defend her.

LLMHS and Lincoln, Lyon, Murray and Pipestone Public Health were two area service agencies that dissolved in 2010, in order to form Southwest Health and Human Services.

Patten was also involved in a class-action lawsuit in Rock County, where it was alleged she made more than 4,000 inappropriate records searches while employed as a child support officer in 2010 and 2011. That lawsuit resulted in an insurance trust representing Minnesota counties agreeing to pay a $2 million settlement in 2013.

Commissioners also made note of a public hearing that will be held at 6 p.m. today in the Lyon County courtrooms. The hearing will share information about possible expansions at the Lyon County Government Center. The current county courtrooms are too small to accommodate technology that will be needed when the state switches to a paperless court records system. A building study of the government center has also found that a building addition will likely be the only way to expand the courtrooms and court offices.