2017-08-23 / Families & Friends

Judge Ward wants library to share its space

By SAM ADAMS

Letcher County is looking for space to house a computer training center and provide workers with office space, if they don’t have a suitable Internet connection at home.

Teleworks USA is a project of Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP). It trains or retrains workers to become telephone support personnel for work-at-home jobs, and currently has seven centers across eastern Kentucky. Workers who don’t have sufficient Internet service at home can go to one of the Teleworks Centers to do their jobs.

Judge/Executive Jim Ward said the center must have access to 100 mbps Internet service, which constrains it to the downtown Whitesburg area.

He asked the Letcher County Library Board on Monday for space on the middle floor of the library for the Teleworks USA center. The county wants either the children’s room or the library computer lab and bookstore for the center.

“I know you have something in every room, but we’re training people to work,” he said.

He could not say how long the center would be located there, or during what hours it would operate. EKCEP would not pay rent for the center, Ward said.

“So we would be paying their electricity, their Internet, their water and sewer, their toilet paper?” Board President Dr. Marlene Bielecki asked.

“Well, the county would take some responsibility,” Ward said.

Bielecki said she had contacted Terry Manuel, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, about the request. She said Manuel said it is not a library’s mission “to provide surplus space to businesses.”

“He’s not up here,” Ward said.

Board member Mike Watts questioned if there were other buildings the county is looking at, and Bielecki suggested one of the rooms at the Letcher County Recreation Center. Ward said the county had looked at the former Ermine Senior Citizens Center, but it was not suitable. He said the third floor of the Letcher County Health Department, which is unused, isn’t a finished space.

Board member Lina Tidal, retired county director of libraries, said the room now used for community events was originally meant to be used as a training room. And, she said she would be happy with it being put in the computer lab, formerly known as the “teen room,” because she did not like having the teens there.

Other members were not as open to the idea, voicing concerns that the library might also have to provide its computers for the center. Library Director Alita Vogel said use of that room varies from month to month. In April, she said, it was used every day for state Social Services to assist clients with job skills.

Bielecki said she had not realized that it was EKCEP, which is a quasi-governmental agency, and said it might be possible to trade the use of the rooms for help repairing water problems that plague the rooms the county wants. She outlined those problems for Ward, and suggested that the county might need a “tighter building.”

Ward said he thought it would be a good fit with the library, because it deals with education, and “libraries are run off tax money.”

There has been open criticism of the libraries tax rates at fiscal court meetings in recent months because of a perceived surplus of money in the library accounts. Board members said this week that money will be eaten up by repairing the water problems.

Bielecki said it is possible the library could schedule the trainings like it schedules other events.

“There’s a Polish saying,” Bielecki said, switching to Polish and then translating to English. “ ‘Work is salvation.’ That’s what I heard my immigrant grandparents say, so I’m not shutting my mind to it.”

The board did not approve the request Monday. Instead, members asked for more information about when the space would be needed, for how long, and during what hours. The board had already voted at the meeting to stop allowing after hours activities unless a librarian is present after a group left an exterior door propped open on a Saturday night.

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