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Canyon Country library left dark

County: Standoff leads official to compare dispute between city and county to a messy divorce

Posted: October 18, 2010 10:35 p.m.
Updated: October 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

A 10-year “marriage” between the city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County over books and libraries now has some officials wishing they had signed a “pre-nup.”

Lori Glasgow, library deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, said the city-county relationship over libraries is unraveling.

“It gets complicated,” she told The Signal on Monday. “If we had known this whole thing would end in divorce, we would have had a pre-nup.”

The relationship over libraries began to sour Aug. 24 when Santa Clarita City Council voted to withdraw from the county library system and create a city division to run the three libraries.

“The city’s withdrawal from the library system is what put this whole thing in play,” Glasgow said.

The fallout has left a child of that city-county union — the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library — in darkness, shut off from the world.

The library, built almost a decade ago, has been under renovation since April 1 and was expected to open its doors on Sept. 1.

The project is now six weeks overdue, despite most of the work being finished.

There’s no reason for any sort of work stoppage at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library and no reason it should be closed, said Santa Clarita Councilwoman Marsha McLean.

She was asked if she still thinks — as she stated two weeks ago — that the county is holding the city of Santa Clarita hostage by stopping renovation work at the east-end library just as construction was nearing completion.

“I hope they’re not,” she said Monday. “I hope they’re just late in getting the project completed. I hope they’re going to open it up to the Canyon Country public soon.

“I think it’s extremely unfortunate.”

Two weeks ago, Tony Bell, spokesman to Antonovich, told The Signal the county could not keep using library district funds for a future city library.

McLean, however, says the county’s general fund has nothing to do with the library or its renovations.

“A year and a half ago, we discussed this matter at L.A. County, and I explained that the funds were coming from developer fees. I reported that at the city meetings as well,” McLean said. “So, the funds are there.”

But it’s not that simple, Glasgow said.

“That’s where it gets muddy,” Glasgow said. “Because that developer fee money was collected from county unincorporated areas.

“From the time we imposed developer fees, some of those areas have now been incorporated,” she explained. “What we need to do is untangle how much developer fee funds were collected from areas that have since been incorporated.”

Meanwhile, bookworm traffic at the Canyon Country library is slow.

Most of the library remains in darkness with loose construction materials — bits of snipped wire and loose nails — swept into plate-sized piles on the vast expanse of empty floor.

Some wires remain exposed and heavy equipment has been removed from sight.

A placard posted on the library’s front doors, directs all calls to Mackone Development Inc., based on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles — the construction company contracted by the county to renovate the inside of the building.

When contacted by phone to learn when construction would resume and when the library might re-open, Mackone staff directed all calls to the county’s Internal Services Department.

Repeat calls to Dave Yamashita, the man identified by Mackone staff as its county contact, were not returned.
A bookmobile remains parked at the south corner of the Soledad Canyon Road building.

A skeleton staff operates in a tiny south corner of the library building on through a single metal side door. A sign taped to door instructs library patrons to knock.

“Books can be ordered here and books can be picked up here,” said a supervisor at the site who referred all official comment to county press people who directed calls to Fred Hungerford, chief deputy of the Los Angeles County Library.

Hungerford said people can still order and access books through the Canyon Country library.

“We just have a very small temporary operation there,” Hungerford said. “We will be having some discussion with the city about the project.”

Asked when the library will be open to the public, he said: “We’ve been told construction is about 80 percent complete, but we don’t have a time line of when it will re-open.”

On Nov. 6, 2001, when the Jo Anne Darcy library was being built, the city signed a lease agreement with the county, agreeing to charge the county only $1 a year in rent to run the library.

With the city as landlord and the county as tenant, the two parties had set the terms of their relationship.

The county would occupy 12,500 square feet of space inside the building, expanding an additional 4,500 square feet within five years. The city would maintain the outside of the building, while the county would maintain the inside.

The county would supply the staff, books and computers.

City spokeswoman Gail Ortiz was asked if city staff are reviewing the rental agreement and whether or not it would consider raising the county’s rent in light of the work stoppage.

“We have a lease agreement and can’t just arbitrarily raise the rent,” Ortiz said.

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