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Could volunteers staff new library in Indian Land?

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By Jenny Hartley

Maybe Lancaster County Council could save money by staffing the Del Webb Library at Indian Land with more volunteers rather than paid staff.

Or maybe not.

During a County Council budget discussion Thursday, Councilman Jack Estridge made the suggestion about volunteers.

He said officials from Del Webb, the developer of Sun City Carolina Lakes, touted the volunteerism of the residents who move into Sun City communities.

Council is facing a tight budget year, not really knowing right now what revenue it will receive from the state, or how much it will be able to raise taxes, County Administrator Steve Willis said.

Willis said he recommends a 3.5-mill tax increase, which would raise taxes on a $100,000 home by $14 a year.

Council has proposed hiring three full-time and three part-time workers for the library, now under construction in the commercial area of Sun City Carolina Lakes.

Lancaster County Library Director Richard Band said the six workers will cost the county about $124,000 for a partial year. The employees will begin work in October, when the building is expected to be complete.

"We feel we may be understaffed, if anything," Band said. "This is really a skeleton crew that will be operating two shifts most days, six days a week."

While operating a library isn't as complicated as running a hospital, Band said a library needs paid, trained staff. Staff needs to have training in computers, and there are confidentiality issues with patron records.

"Volunteers can shelve books and do some programs, but you can't do it all with volunteers," Band said.

Band is pleased with the progress of the building. Roof trusses are going up, and contractors say it will be finished on time in October.

The Springs Close Foundation recently turned down the library's request for a $75,000 grant for books, Band said. Foundation members felt that because the library is a public building, it should be fully funded by the county.

"I can understand that," Band said. "I was hoping maybe we'd get some of that, like $25,000, but nothing? I know we're not going to have a world-class collection on opening day."

Although it was on the agenda, council chose not to vote on second reading of the $30.2 million budget at the May 22 meeting.

Council members believe the budget needs more work before it gives another approval.

The budget requires three readings to become final. It will be on the agenda again at council's next meeting on June 2.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1151