‘I felt dirty’ over SD&G library closure decision, says former board member

(SD&G County Library via Newswatch Group, File)

SD&G – A former SD&G library board member believes the government body violated the public trust in the way it handled the impending closures of three SD&G County Library branches.

The board met July 29 – the Friday before a long weekend – a recommended the closures of the Morewood, St. Andrews West and Dalkeith branches in a 4-3 vote.

Barb Lehtiniemi was on the board for three-and-a-half years and was vice chairman since January 2015 – until she resigned Friday following the decision.

“I just felt like, I didn’t want to be involved in a group of people who would make a decision in the way that they made it.”

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Lehtiniemi said the public has a right to be upset in the way the situation was handled.

In April, at a library board meeting where many members of the public were there, the board rescinded a decision to cut hours at the same three library branches that are now being closed, Lehtiniemi explained.

“At that time, the public was promised by the chairman of the board (Bill McGimpsey)…that we would be revisiting the decision but not until the fall. They had to the fall to try and promote their local branches and make a case for them being viable.”

Lehtiniemi adds McGimpsey had also promised to hold town hall sessions in each township where the board could interact with the public.

“Neither of these things have happened. We had a meeting at the end of July, which is well before the fall, but was promised these local branches. We also haven’t had the town hall meeting sessions. They are in the planning stages and at our May meeting we discussed that we would be starting these in early fall, probably the beginning of September. Those things haven’t taken place yet the chair called the meeting in July to discuss closures of branches,” Lehtiniemi told CNW.

“The public, were they lied to? Well, sure sounds like it to me,” she said.

Lehtiniemi said the July 29 meeting was “hastily called” and most of the public wasn’t aware of the public meeting. “If it’s on the Friday of a long weekend, chances are there’s going to be very few people that are going to actually show up.”

She said the board normally doesn’t meet in the summer and she received two days notice after being away and returning home on Wednesday. Instead of typically getting a meeting package six or seven days before a meeting, Lehtiniemi said the package came on the Monday, four days before the meeting.

Even though the closures are not slated to take place until on or before the Labour Day weekend, Lehtiniemi doesn’t know what can be done to reverse the decision and the “deep sense of injustice” to the public.

“I wish I knew. If I knew, I would be doing it. Certainly public pressure does help. Sometimes it’s the only thing that helps. I really sense the outrage of people even more so than when the hours were cut earlier this year. I think they are right to be outraged. They’ve been had.”