There is a chance the recently closed Merrill's Corner branch library in Eltopia could reopen.
Mid-Columbia Libraries board members said Tuesday they will consider temporarily reopening the tiny facility they closed for financial reasons in December.
A dozen concerned citizens, some from Eltopia, told board members at Tuesday's board meeting they felt they were slighted by the decision to close the library.
"We're disappointed it is no longer there to serve us," said Susan Flatau, who lives in the rural area near Eltopia.
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"Just because we don't have the numbers doesn't mean we shouldn't have the library," she added.
Flatau's daughter, Esther, said using a library bookmobile two hours a week to replace what the branch library offered three days a week was hardly satisfactory.
Franklin County Commission Chairman Brad Peck also attended the meeting, saying he was disappointed the library board didn't given him a heads up about closing the branch last December.
"I've been getting feedback and I was disappointed to hear this from my constituents. In the future, please give me a courtesy call," he said.
Peck suggested the board review its decision and try to reduce hours at the 10 other branches so library services at Merrill's Corner can be restored.
But library board member Tom Callahan noted that the financial analysis that led to closing the branch showed only a few dozen patrons at Merrill's Corner.
"We were paying $330 per user for that library. That is not a reasonable use of the money," he said.
"I understand the emotional connection. It is almost like losing a school or a church, but I don't think we made the wrong decision," Callahan said.
Library board member Sandra LePage, who lives in Franklin County, said the average cost per patron systemwide is $65.
"Financially it didn't make sense (to keep Merrill's Corner open). But financial sense and common sense don't always provide the right answer," she said. "None of us thought there could be so much outcry. We were unaware how much the community was attached to the (Merrill's Corner) library branch."
The board's decision to close Merrill's Corner came during the recent budgeting process. It was not an agenda item for the board, and the only public notice provided by the library was a postcard bulk mailing to Eltopia area residents in December.
Board members subsequently acknowledged they should have done a better job about informing the public about the planned closure.
Library board member Jerry Hug noted that when the new the west Pasco branch library opens this fall, Eltopia area residents will have much more than Merrill's Corner offered.
But Esther Flatau said she prefers the personal contact with library staff to fancy technology.
Library board President Gloria Garcia said the board will revisit the Merrill's Corner issue, but any reopening likely is to be temporary.
"If we decide to keep Merrill's Corner, we would only do that until the end of the year (when the west Pasco branch opens)," she said.
"And if we do, the money (for Merrill's Corner) will have to come from somewhere," LePage added.
-- John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org