County commissioner and sports writer Barry Jacobs could title his next book Getting to No, a negotiating how-to. He could lead with the discussions over how much Orange County will contribute toward operating expenses for the Cadillac library Chapel Hill hankers for, even though the expansion would max out the town’s debt limit. The town, dissatisfied with the $250,000 the county chips in annually as well as with the county’s latest offer of $500,000, took a hard line stance on what it considers the town’s “fair share.” County residents evidently make up 40 percent of the Chapel Hill Library’s use. To cover that percentage of the library’s current $2 million annual operating costs, the county would need to pony up $950,000 a year.
Rather than up the county’s contribution, Jacobs countered with a plan to reduce the usage. The county would open a branch library in the space that now houses the Skills Development Center on West Franklin Street, between the Chapel Hill News building and the Orange County Visitors Center. Jacobs showed he could play hardball by calling the town’s bluff.
The town can either proceed without a monetary contribution from the county and expand the library but reduce its hours of operation because it doesn’t have the money to run it full time. Council members are all of the generation that bought into “quality time.” So, they would understand the idea of a state-of-the-art library, open only three hours a day.
Or the town can meekly accept whatever the county decides to offer in exchange for not building its own library.
Well played, Jacobs, well played.
— Nancy Oates