Pratt would be required to hold public hearings on branch closings

November 18, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Hoping to avoid nasty fights such as the one between the Enoch Pratt Free Library and Charles Village over the closing of the neighborhood branch, the City Council wants the Pratt's board to hold public hearings on proposed branch closings.

If the Pratt refuses, the council wants to withhold millions in municipal funds from the library.

A bill that would accomplish the council's aims was introduced by Northeast Councilman Martin O'Malley during last night's council meeting. It was co-sponsored by 15 of the council's 19 members.

Library officials said that they were unaware of the council bill and added that it may be difficult to hold hearings on branch closings because of the municipal budget process.

"I think we need to look at it first, but I can see complications from a practical standpoint," said Averil J. Kadis, Pratt spokeswoman.

Kadis said that when the municipal budget is being hammered out by the council and Schmoke administration in late spring, the Pratt allocation changes often. Consequently, the Pratt may be forced to plan drastic cuts in service that may be restored before the new budget takes effect in July.

Kadis said there's a danger the public could be stirred needlessly if hearings are held on planned branch closings during the middle of the budget process, and then the need to close a branch may not be necessary after the budget is finalized.

Charles Village residents launched a bitter and unsuccessful fight to keep their branch open, and argued that the Pratt did not hold a public hearing alerting them to the closing.

Pub Date: 11/18/97

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