GARDINER — As Gardiner officials discuss the city budget Wednesday night, they will consider a request from the Gardiner Public Library’s board of trustees to freeze for a year the fees neighboring communities pay to use the library.

“Our focus is on keeping the Gardiner library healthy and serving our communities,” said Helen Stevens, president of the library’s board of trustees. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

The board draws its membership from the communities the library serves: Gardiner, Farmingdale, Litchfield, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner.

The Gardiner Public Library is planning to begin takeout service of borrowed materials Monday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Stevens, who lives in Gardiner, said she has not always agreed with proposals to keep library funding flat, but, in this case, all of the communities are facing tough times.

“Part of the toughness is the uncertainty,” she said. “What will it be in six months, and six months after that? We don’t know.”

Under an arrangement with its neighboring communities, Gardiner allows residents of the other five towns access to the library, its resources and services. While several different methods of cost-sharing have been used, the library now uses a per-capita calculation for its cost model.

By holding the funding flat, the city would forgo about $5,700 in the next budget year.

Normally, Pittston and West Gardiner would have already conducted their annual town meetings in March to vote on their budgets, including the Gardiner Public Library request.

But those towns postponed their meetings after the global coronavirus pandemic was declared, and large gatherings of any kind were banned to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Traditionally, Litchfield and Farmingdale both have June town meetings, and Randolph’s is in July.

The board suggested freezing the funding level for two reasons:

• The library has been closed to the public since March 27, when the library staff was sent home under a stay-at-home order.

• Gardiner and other communities across the region are trying to anticipate the impact of a series of executive orders that closed non-essential businesses, school buildings and government offices.

“The economy is flat, to say the least,” Stevens said. “Everybody hopes to see it recovering. People work really, really hard to be responsible to their community, to keep that bottom line. I am sure people will continue to do it.”

Patrons explore the second-floor children’s room during a Feb. 12, 2016, event celebrating completion of interior renovations at the Gardiner Public Library.

The Gardiner Public Library staff has started working toward opening again. On the library’s Facebook page, staff members announced they are working on a system for users to reserve local items and pick them up at the takeout window at the back of the library building, beginning Monday, June 1.

The library is also preparing to take returns again between noon and 4 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, at the drop box at the library’s rear entrance. Members of the library staff expect to let the returned items sit for 72 hours before handling them because it is not clear how long the coronavirus might survive on those items.

“We’re struggling with how we reopen,” Stevens said. “What will the library look like? Can we have newspapers and magazines available to people? Will that be safe?  We have a lot of questions.

“Some of them will be answered and some of them won’t. At the foremost, we have to be responsible for our community and keep them safe.”

The City Council is seeking public input on the city’s proposed $6.6 million spending plan. To make that happen, City Manager Christine Landes said people will be able to log into the Zoom meeting. The login information is available at www.gardinermaine.com/gardiner-city-council/agenda/city-council-meeting-agenda-21.

Three different executive sessions have been scheduled for the meeting. One on personnel regarding employees’ participation and emergency response and providing essential services, and one to discuss union contracts and proposals are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting will start when they conclude.

A third executive session about economic development for Central Maine Crossing is scheduled for the close of the public meeting.

City officials are also expected to:

• Hear a proclamation honoring Memorial Day, read by Mayor Patricia Hart.

• Consider adopting a policy on personal conduct during City Council meetings.

• Consider awarding a contract for replacing the trickling filters at the wastewater treatment plant as part of the planned facility upgrade.

• Consider setting a date for a public hearing on a possible credit enhancement agreement for Central Maine Crossing.

• Consider modifying a right-of-way on Commerce Drive in the Libby Hill Business Park.

• Consider reviewing the proposed food truck ordinance and set a date for a public hearing.

• Consider scheduling a City Council meeting for June 10.

The City Council will meet via Zoom, and the public portion of the meeting will also be aired on Facebook Live.

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