River Country Journal
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January 25, 2013

Latest ‘Community Development Meeting’ explores ‘district library’

Libraries – specifically, district libraries – were in the spotlight Thursday evening (January 24th) during the first ‘Community Development Meeting’  (CDM) of the New Year, a session hosted by Three Rivers City Manager Joe Bippus and held in the Commission Room at City Hall.

Shown here during Thursday’s ‘Community Development Meeting’ (clockwise from left), City Manager Joe Bippus, Fabius Township Supervisor John Kroggel, guest presenter Richard Butler, Jr., Elena Hines of the Three Rivers Commercial-News, Lockport Township Supervisor Ray Signorello, and Park Township Supervisor Joe Eichorn. (Click on photo to enlarge)

The gathering was the latest in a series of such meetings launched by former Mayor Ken Baker in April of 2011 to explore ways in which Three Rivers area governmental units can work together to improve the delivery of services and save money.

In addition to Bippus, Thursday’s meeting was attended by Fabius Township Supervisor John Kroggel, Lockport Township Supervisor Ray Signorello, and Park Township Supervisor Joe Eichorn.

The previous CDM, held prior to the holidays, included attention to the subject of libraries and yielded interest in looking at the pros and cons of a district library.  Toward that end, Bippus invited Richard Butler, Jr., an attorney with Bloom Sluggett Morgan, P.C. in Grand Rapids, as the featured guest for Thursday’s meeting.  In opening his presentation, Butler explained that he started representing libraries about 30 years ago in his capacity as an attorney for Kent County at a time when the Kent County Library was interested in forming a district library.  He said there were “a lot of holes” in the old 1955 statute that was in place at that time, a situation that led to a process in which he was involved to make legislative changes.  The result was the District Library Establishment Act (DLEA) of 1989 which now governs the creation and operation of district libraries in Michigan.  Butler indicated that, once the new law was in effect, it led to a lot of libraries throughout the state becoming district libraries.  (Richard Butler audio clip – 1:23)

Richard Butler, Jr., an attorney with 30 years experience working with libraries, was the guest speaker for the ‘Community Development Meeting’ Thursday evening at the Three Rivers City Hall.

Butler reviewed a six-page handout regarding the subject of district libraries, a document with key points about the District Library Establishment Act, the procedure for forming a district library, district library agreement provisions, and the advantages of a district library.  Along the way, he interacted with meeting attendees and responded to a variety of questions.

The conversation revealed interest in learning more about the subject and indications that a change to a district library might be a bit more of a challenge for Lockport and Park townships since both have affiliations with other libraries in addition to the Three Rivers Public Library – Lockport with the Nottawa Township Library and Park with libraries in Mendon and Vicksburg – where Fabius Township is linked only to the library in Three Rivers.

The end point of the discussion was a consensus to continue exploring the district library topic further and an indication from Bippus that he would seek financial information to share with the group during the next CDM on February 28th.  (Joe Bippus audio clip – :13)

For additional insights on Thursday’s CDM, click on the following link to hear a post-meeting interview with City Manager Joe Bippus, recorded by Bruce Snook of the River Country JournalJoe Bippus interview (1:43)

To view the handout used by Richard Butler during his presentation, click on the link that follows:  The District Library Establishment Act:  Formation of a New District Library.


  1. Rob Sisson

    The first and most immediate savings would be to create a county wide ambulance authority. It would save every governmental unit in the county from paying a subsidy.

  2. Jen E Adams

    So rather than having a library in every town (and near everyone in the districts) we would consolidate into a larger “district library?” If so, would it close down the smaller libraries that serve small towns?

  3. Don Gloy--Supervisor White Pigeon Township

    I couldn’t agree more. LifeCare ambulance has said if they could get the entire County, they would not charge any subsidies to any of the Cities, Villages, or Townships.

  4. A little History lesson for those that like plans that only look good on paper.....

    First, I was one of only two voting SAAC members that lobbied to have Lifecare Ambulance be the service provider to the SAAC coverage area years before the rest of SAAC later decided to go that direction–I make mention of that only as a reference point to indicate that I was not anti-Lifecare for ambulance coverage.

    That being said, in the time that I served on that board and also our local ambulance board with the village and two townships, how many times have we had an ambulance provider say “give us the contract, and we will serve the area without a subsidy”, only to come back at a later date and say they either need a subsidy to continue servicing the area and/or they would have to erode their response time commitment to a coverage area. The correct answer is 3 (or all of them–Mercy Ambulance, SFAS, and the Lifecare).

    In each case, they dangled the the “no subsidy” carrot, but in the end we were paying subsidy or switched providers (only to have that provider we switched to come back later and ask for the very same thing). In one of those cases, response to Sturgis city’s coverage area was also 5 minutes or less from the service provider, while the rest of us in the burgs in the outlying areas who were told they would get 8 minutes or less 90% of the time…well when those metrics weren’t being met and I showed the board through their own data those facts….well they just pulled out a book of national standards that said us rural folks should expect 13 minutes and be glad to have that because that is what the good little book says – screw what the contract said because we weren’t paying a subsidy anyway.

    So how does that saying go? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me….I’m not sure about fool me 3 and working on number 4 times is supposed to go…..

  5. A little History lesson for those that like plans that only look good on paper.....

    ….and let’s perhaps apply some logic and common sense. Giving someone exclusivity for a service is a monopoly and a monopoly is seldom a good thing for anyone except the one controlling the monopoly. I don’t care what it looks like on paper…more times than not you get what you pay for.

    Think about it….if you gave one petroleum company exclusive rights to provide gasoline to the county, would we be getting the best gas prices? It would seem Sturgis and the gas wars that go on there with a bit of competition would suggest having a few good options to choose from is good for gas prices.

    Or let’s say we had no other store in our county except for Walmart that could sell goods and groceries….would we be getting as good a prices and selection compared to having both Meijers and WalMart and a few other small chain stores?

    Yet for some reason only in government do folks think putting all our eggs in one basket and mothball all other ambulance services to contract with one service provider County wide for everyone is going to give everyone cheap coverage AND good response times for the long term . How I wish that were true…even though history 3 times already has proven otherwise that biting on that carrot dangled in front of us as a free lunch (ie: no subsidy service) in the long term simply doesn’t pan out as promised.

  6. Izzie Stevens

    Jen ~ Correct !!! PLUS, it will cost the Villages/Townships more money as they will request a millage, while the City of TR will have their Library millage REDUCED…how convenient.

    Regarding LifeCare ~ It does sound good. Nothing against LifeCare, but when you hear about response time of approx. 10 mins. and LifeCare saying that there’s more available defibrillators, the last time I checked, I didn’t have a defibrillator in my closet to help my neighbors. Sorry, not willing to take the risk.

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