The Premont Library has been closed since the first of the year after the library clerk retired effective in December. In December of 2019, the library had six applicants to fill the clerk position to keep operations running at the library.
The original agreement between Jim Wells County, the City of Alice and the Premont library date back to 1978 as an “Operation of Cooperation.” The agreement commits Jim Wells County in paying 45 percent of the library funding and operating expenses and the City of Alice paying 55 percent.
The County has paid a flat fee of $50,000 for many years and was unaware of the agreement from the late 1970’s.
Jim Wells County became aware of the closure and unfunded position on Jan. 29.
The City of Alice is currently in a financial climate with budget cuts on personnel and city services. City Manager Micheal Esparza is trying to find logic in funding a part-time library clerk position and supporting the costs for telephones and internet in a library in another city.
“The tax payers in Alice should not be paying for a library in another city with their tax-dollars,” Esparza said.
The City of Alice put a freeze on all hiring due to a decrease in sales tax revenue resulting in immediate budget cuts.
On Monday, Feb. 10, representatives for the Premont Public Library attended the Jim Wells County Commissioners Court meeting asking to renegotiate the decision to stop funding for the local library.
“We, as a rural community, need this library we offer support for the children, internet for job seekers and educational programs for all ages,” said Leona Hill, long time Premont resident and Library supporter, at the JWC Commissioners Court hearing.
The County Judge and the commissioner’s discussed the issue, but tabled it.
“There's more to the agreement then finances,” said JWC County Judge Juan Rodriguez. “The Premont library is a smaller rural community and needs the bigger public accredited library as a sponsor for grant funding and state regulations and licensure.
Rodriguez will be visiting the library this week for more information and plans to discuss the issue and future financial obligations with City Manager and County Attorney in more detail.
The Premont library will be on the agenda for March 9’s County Commissioners Court. The meeting starts at 10 a.m at the Jim Wells County Courthouse.