Crenshaw Library

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

At Crenshaw library, air flowing, funds not

By Billy Davis
“We have air,” Crenshaw head librarian Martha Rayburn reported this week from the little town’s little library.

After raising a ruckus at a May 6 town meeting over the lack of air conditioning, Rayburn said repairs have now been made to the library’s antiquated air conditioning system. HVAC repairman Chris Jenkins made the repairs last week and returned again this Monday when Freon began leaking, she said.

At the May 6 meeting, Rayburn had challenged Mayor Sylvester Reed over the delayed repairs, informing the public gathering that a month had passed and the air conditioning had not been repaired.

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Reed has gained a reputation for micromanaging town government, including all expenditures for the cash-strapped town. In that vein, he castigated Rayburn in recent months when he learned that she had sought repairs to the air conditioning without city hall’s approval.

But the mayor cited a different excuse on May 6. Reed responded that repairs had been delayed because the repairman, Jenkins, “never got in touch with me” and missed two appointments to meet.  

As the meeting resumed, conversations around the board table revealed that Jenkins was likely delaying a second repair trip until the town paid him for his first repair work at the library.

Crenshaw city clerk Renee Ward said this week that Jenkins has now been paid for his work, including payment for his Monday trip to the library.  

Jenkins, who operates his business from Como, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Rayburn also reported Tuesday she had met with the mayor and Jenkins, after seeking such a meeting on May 6, to ensure the repairs would be made before the spring weather turned hot.

Crenshaw’s public library, named after late businessman Sam Lapidus, operates 24 hours a week at 108 Missouri Street from a small building, which Rayburn believes is about 25 years old.

The library is part of an 18-branch cooperative known as the First Regional Library, which is headquartered in Hernando.

The Crenshaw branch boasts the smallest circulation in First Regional’s five-county system, but the Crenshaw library is still a frequent draw for children in the impoverished Delta town. Rayburn has alluded to the library’s service to those children when she has clashed with Reed at past town meetings.

Rayburn estimated that “100-plus” children participated in the 2007 summer reading program, and she expects that many to sign up beginning June 2.

The library also served as an after-school babysitter for at least 25 children, but a new tutoring program at Crenshaw Elementary has reduced that number.

Still unresolved, meanwhile, is when the town will honor its full payment to First Regional after making only a partial payment in 2007.

In a phone interview this week, First Regional director Catherine Nathan said the Town of Crenshaw pledged $2,500 during the 2007 fiscal year but sent only $1,000. First Regional has not asked the town to abide by its 2007 pledge, but Nathan formally inquired about the 2008 payment in an April 29 letter that was sent to Reed.

In the letter, Nathan noted that the town had sent $1,500 toward the $3,000 pledged by town government for the 2008 fiscal year, which is now down to one quarter remaining.

“Please let me know when the remaining $1,500 could be expected,” Nathan wrote.

At the May 6 meeting, Rayburn asked Reed why he had not been “courteous” and responded to Nathan’s letter.

“I have a letter drawn up,” Reed replied. “Courtesy doesn’t mean you have to jump the next day.”

Nathan said, however, that she has not heard from Reed as of May 20.

“No, there hasn’t been any correspondence from the mayor,” she said.

Nathan and Rayburn had asked to be added to the May 6 meeting agenda, which would have allowed them to address Reed and the board, but they were told that morning that they had not been included.

Rayburn instead spoke during a first-come public forum that typically allows only two members of the public to speak. During those comments, she reported about the air conditioning and said she and Nathan had filled out a form a week earlier to get on the meeting’s agenda.

“I was told I can’t speak,” Rayburn said. “I want to know why.”

“You must meet with the mayor first,” Reed told Rayburn.