Hendersonville mulls deeding library over to Sumner County - Main Street Media of Tennessee (2024)

Hendersonville mulls deeding library over to Sumner County - Main Street Media of Tennessee (1)

Ownership of the Hendersonville Public Library could land solely in the hands of Sumner County government if an agreement making its way through the city and county legislative bodies can be reached.

Currently the city of Hendersonville and Sumner County share joint ownership of the facility and the three or so acres it sits on along Saundersville Road in Indian Lake Village.

The county controls the operations of the library including staffing and programming and maintains liability insurance on the facility while the city is charged with providing routine maintenance, landscaping and other support services, according to a resolution passed by the County Commission in 2015. The city also makes an annual contribution of $50,000 to the library’s operation.

Whether or not the city has been providing the obligated “routine maintenance” and how that is defined has been the subject of several behind-the-scenes conversations between city and county leaders for several months.

County Legislative Committee Chairman Jeremy Mansfield and Law Director Eric Sitler attended a Hendersonville Finance Committee meeting in January to address the issue.

Mansfield said the issue first came up when an air conditioning unit broke during the summer.

“We found out the AC had been broken for several years, then the elevator is broken. The ask from the county mayor was to revisit the resolution in 2015 so [these requests] don’t fall through the cracks,” he told committee members.

Mansfield added that while the county has been paying for the larger “big ticket” items, the city was supposed to be handling the routine maintenance on the items.

Hendersonville Library Director Alycia Neighbours told the committee that the HVAC wasn’t working when she started working at the library a year prior. When she became the director months later, she made steps to correct the issue and couldn’t find who serviced or maintained the system or any records related to its maintenance.

The staff elevator went down in August and she couldn’t get a repair person out until someone accepted responsibility, she said. That eventually was repaired in January, she added. In the meantime, the patron elevator failed as well, but was repaired quickly due to ADA compliance concerns.

“We just really want to know who do we go to,” said Neighbours. “I’m not saying it wasn’t done. I just can’t find records. I just want to know where to go moving forward.”

Both Mansfield and Sitler told committee members they just wanted to know how to handle the issues moving forward.

Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary and Finance Committee Chairman Karen Dixon asked that the county propose a solution.

“It’s in your court to get something to us,” said Dixon.

With the advisem*nt of county leaders, Sitler prepared a quit claim deed that gives the county full ownership of the library.

Hendersonville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed the revised deed during their meeting on May 28.

Alderman wants assurance that building will remain a library

Ward 5 Alderman Rachel Collins said she wanted to be sure that the building remained a library and added a reverter clause to the deed that reads:

“For so long as said real estate is used entirely as a public library and when said real estate is no longer used entirely as a public library, then and in that event said real estate shall automatically revert to a one-half undivided interest each to grantor and grantee.”

Collins’ amendment passed unanimously.

Dixon asked if the city would still have the obligation to pay $50,000 for the library’s upkeep. Clary said the city doesn’t have that obligation now, but will continue to contribute.

Sumner County operates libraries in Hendersonville, Gallatin, Millersville, Portland and Westmoreland. The city of Portland owns its library. Hendersonville’s library is the only one where there is joint ownership between a city and the county.

The city of Hendersonville contributes $50,000 each year for operational costs – the most of any other county library. The city of Gallatin contributes $35,000; Millersville $2,500; Portland $27,500 and Westmoreland $2,000. It costs approximately $1 million to operate the Hendersonville library each year with the county contributing around $940,000.

Ward 1 Alderman Mark Skidmore noted that when the library was built, a citizen-led group helped raise the funding for it. He asked how that group feels about the city handing over ownership to the county.

Tim Takacs of the non-profit group Friends of the Arts and Literature (FOALS), reminded BOMA members that the library opened in 2008 on land donated by the developers of Indian Lake Village. FOALS raised close to $3 million, and Sumner County and the city of Hendersonville each contributed that amount for the approximately $10 million project, Takacs noted.

He said FOALS only learned of the proposal to give complete ownership to the county three or four days prior to the May 28 meeting.

“We just want to see it continue as a library,” he said. “And if it does not, I think a lot of people would be disappointed at the very least.”

Clary noted that the city currently has little control over the library. Nothing should change, he said, other than maintenance needs would likely be addressed quicker.

The first reading of the ordinance authorizing the transfer of the city’s half ownership in the library to the county passed 10 to 2 with Ward 6 Alderman Jim Waters and Jeff Sasse of Ward 3 voting against it. A second vote is needed in order for it to pass.

The deal-breaker

It’s unclear if county leaders will agree to keep city leaders’ reverter clause in the deed.

The County’s General Operations Committee discussed the issue briefly at the end of a two-hour meeting on June 3.

County Attorney Eric Sitler said the county already has to cover the building insurance wise, so it is better to get ownership of the building.

Commission Chairman Merrol Hyde, who is not a member of the committee, said he would prefer that the reverter clause be removed. The committee voted to remove it and pass the matter on to the county’s Legislative Committee.

When asked on Tuesday how she felt about the county committee removing the reverter clause, Collins said she’s not clear on the reasoning behind taking it out.

She won’t vote to give the county the library without it, she added.

“I’m not willing to give it to them without that clause,” said Collins. “It’s a deal-breaker for me.”

Hendersonville mulls deeding library over to Sumner County - Main Street Media of Tennessee (2024)
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