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Should city mandate Wheaton library hours?
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/21/2010 12:00 AM

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Now that Wheaton Public Library is going to reopen on Fridays, several city council members say their colleagues should scrap plans to mandate library hours.

The council next month is scheduled to vote on a law that, if approved, would require the library to be open six days a week during the summer and all seven days during the school year. The ordinance also would require the library to operate a minimum of four hours on days it's open.

On Tuesday, Councilman Todd Scalzo said there's no need for the law because library board members agreed to reopen the facility from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays beginning in September.

"This ordinance can't be any more unnecessary," Scalzo said. "As far as I am concerned, the issue is totally moot."

Still, Councilman Howard Levine said he believes the ordinance is necessary and should go to a vote Aug. 2.

"I think the vote will provide some finality on this issue and give direction to the library for the future," Levine said. "Then we can all move on."

The proposed ordinance was drafted after city council members strongly criticized the library board for implementing Friday closures to make up for a $300,000 budget cut.

Some council members said they wanted to make it easier to remove library trustees who ignored the city's wishes. So in addition to restoring Friday hours, the proposed ordinance would reduce the term of future library board members from three years to two.

Library board President Colleen McLaughlin called the ordinance "nonsensical" and "unenforceable."

But instead of waging a costly legal battle with the city, she recommended the library restore some Friday hours.

"I give the library credit for taking the high road," Councilman Phil Suess said. "I think the city council needs to do the same thing."

Suess said that includes disposing of the proposed ordinance. He said he also would like to see the city restore about $120,000 in funding for the library.

The council would have to sign off on any plan to give the library more money. Some say the city can't afford it. They fear Illinois might reduce Wheaton's share of the state income tax - a move that could cost the city roughly $1.3 million a year.