, Derry, New Hampshire

August 30, 2012

Town Council, library trustees at odds

By James Niedzinski

---- — LONDONDERRY — Town officials were upset when Leach Library director Barbara Ostertag-Holtkamp did not appear at a scheduled public hearing during a Town Council meeting.

But Pauline Caron, chairman of the library trustees, did send an email to Acting Town Manager William Hart and Town Council Chairman John Farrell, informing them of Ostertag-Holtkamp’s absence.

The library director was scheduled to discuss the monthly and year-to-date budget reports.

“We simply want them to explain why they may be over or under budget, if at all,” Councilor Tom Freda said.

In order to keep close track of budgets, the Town Council has asked each department to provide a monthly budget report, rather than a yearly one.

However, the library trustees decided the yearly budget reports provide adequate information. The annual reports are made public during trustees’ meetings, Caron wrote in the email.

“We have a very good system,” trustees’ treasurer John Velliquette said. “This was not meant to be a power struggle.”

Caron and the town councilors do see eye to eye when it comes to transparency.

The trustees’ meeting minutes show the library is over budget by $21,718. However, $12,756 of that amount was used to repair a heating and cooling unit in June. The money came from the expendable maintenance trust.

“I don’t believe this is a dispute, just a communication issue,” said Joseph Green, Town Council liaison to Leach Library. “They are all very focused people and they do great things for the community.”

The goal of the new monthly finance report is to make sure each department has enough funding on a monthly basis, and to do a year-end summary. If a department were to go over or under budget, the Town Council would simply need an explanation, finance director Susan Hickey said.

“As far as I know, no other department that reports to the town has had any problem with the switch to monthly reports,” Freda said. “I find it rather dubious that they have not responded to our requests.”

The trustees agreed to keep their finance reports in the reference area of the library, allowing anyone to view them during library hours.

In the past, Leach Library has cut hours in order to save money on staffing, something Green wants to avoid.

“Pauline is a very sensible person, and we have plans to just sit and talk about finances,” Green said.