The majority of the Town Council voted Monday to direct Town Manager Roger Stancil to negotiate with Orange County Manager Frank Clifton to increase the county's share of funding for the Chapel Hill Public Library.
The two council members who voted against that plan wanted an immediate vote in favor of a long-planned $16-million expansion at the current library off Estes Drive. The majority also supported the expansion but opted to wait until an agreement with the county was in hand before acting. The council has until this summer to decide whether to issue about $20 million in bonds for the library and parks that voters approved in 2003.
"I don't see how we strengthen our position with Orange County ... if we make a decision tonight to go forward," said Councilman Matt Czajkowski.
"We don't have to move with irrational haste," agreed Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.
The majority also left open the possibility that Stancil's talks with the county could include a branch near the Carrboro town line, which might trigger capital funding from the county. As it stands, county leaders are only willing to increase their share of operating costs unless a project would also meet their goal of a full-service branch in Carrboro.
About 40 percent of library patrons come from Orange County outside Chapel Hill, but the county's funding makes up only about 11 percent of the library's operating budget.
"What if the county has the ability to take our $15 million and turn it into $25 million," said Councilman Gene Pease. "I'm kind of intrigued by the pressure we've put on the county and what they've come back with."
Councilwoman Penny Rich, who voted against the delay, doesn't think the county will back out of its tentative proposal to double its annual contribution to $500,000.
But "we can't be sure of anything, of any funding from the county," said Councilman Jim Ward.