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Library's bookmobile will end its run

Cattaraugus County legislators were told Wednesday that bookmobile service throughout the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System will be reduced in the first six months of 2009 and will cease in June due to escalating costs.

Members of the system's Board of Trustees explained during the Legislature session that the decision was necessary due to an anticipated decrease in state funding, rising fuel costs and the fact that the aging bookmobile will cost an estimated $250,000 to replace.

But other services to the system's 36 member libraries will expand, with two weekly interlibrary circulation deliveries, a hoped-for increase in grants to member libraries for purchase of new materials, and a possible expansion in delivery of books and materials to facilities serving the elderly.

In 2007 some lawmakers objected to a reduction in the number of bookmobile stops in Olean. The system's 2008 budget request for a $20,500 increase was trimmed to $85,524, the same amount awarded by the county in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Preparation of the county's 2009 budget has begun, and a tentative spending plan will be released to Legislature committees Nov. 5, with a final draft to be presented by the Finance Committee Nov. 20. Lawmakers will receive formal budget presentations Oct. 29 from the Library System and other contract agencies.

"This was a difficult decision our board made, and it stands. It is irrevocable," said board President Thomas Congdon, asking the legislators to continue 2009 funding at the same rate as in past years and reminding them that any local funding cuts of 5 percent or more will mean a "crippling" loss of at least $322,601 in state aid.

He said that while 1,408 people are served by the bookmobile, 146,927 patrons are served by libraries. He added that 40 percent of the bookmobile users also carry library cards issued by member libraries. E. James Ellis, R-Cattaraugus, wondered what will happen to the bookmobile patrons from Otto and East Otto, who have no public library and who asked for a continuation of service.

Following public hearings in which there were no comments from the public, legislators approved two local laws. The first abolished the Risk Management Department, merging it with Human Resources. The second boosts fees by $5 for private pay clients of the county's two nursing homes. Beginning Jan. 1 the daily private pay rate for Olean Pines will be $215 and $250 for Machias Pines.

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