Decisions made recently by officials at the helm of two different agencies, both of which serve the public, will have a definite impact, but is the little guy being hurt in the process?
In Melrose, trustees of the Melrose Public Library and Library Director Dennis Kelley decided to charge a hefty fee — $150 for an individual; $200 for a family — to Saugus residents who would like to use the Melrose Library. Saugus closed the doors to its town library last week due to budget wrangling in that town — a sign on the door there this week says the library is “closed due to lack of funding.”
Other library boards, like Melrose’s, have reacted in kind to the news of the Saugus Library’s closure: the Revere Library will allow Saugonians to come inside and read magazine and periodicals but not check out books or even use the computers; Wakefield, citing that town’s standing policy, curtailed borrowing privileges to Saugus residents due to the closing of the library; Lynnfield, apparently being the most generous, will reportedly allow Saugus residents to use the library through July 1.
The Melrose Board of Library Trustees’ decision to charge $150 or $200 for borrowing privileges to Saugus residents is hurtful to senior citizens and to children, especially as the latter prepare for summer vacation and reading lists assigned by teachers. Yes, Saugus should have stepped up to the plate and staffed and funded their library. No question there. And yes, Melrose Library trustees are correct in assigning a fee to Saugus residents as a way of showing just how expensive professional library services can be.
But $150 for an individual and $200 for a family? The fees seem exorbitant and instead of sending a strong message to Saugus officials who allowed their library to get into the financial mess it is in, the message on the door of the Melrose Library seems to be “Not Welcome” to Saugonians. Period.
In another case of hurting the little guy, this time at the state level, the Massachusetts Lottery Commission was wrong to have abruptly ended the “Instant Replay” anti-litter program used by civic groups to raise funds — and even more wrong to end the program without notification and a final “ticket turn-in” day.
Across the state, people like Karl Geller, director of Melrose’s Temple Beth Shalom, used the Lottery’s program as a fundraiser for good causes — in Geller’s case, a $1 million capital improvement plan at the Temple. Geller, his wife Sandy, and numerous Temple members spent months collecting discarded, dirty lottery scratch tickets — 66,000, in fact — to be turned in at a Lottery redemption day where 25 discarded tickets would be redeemed for a $1 ticket.
Instead, the Lottery Commission cancelled the program because it was costing too much money. According to Beth Bresnahan, communications director for the Lottery Commission, the program receives $100,000 in funding from the Legislature, but the program alone was costing more than $1.5 million per year to operate.
Obviously, the Lottery Commission could not continue running the program with such losses but ending it suddenly, with no advance warning or notice and without a final ticket redemption day, was the wrong thing to do — and a public relations nightmare for the state agency.
But in the end, it’s the little guys, in this case, the Temple members who slogged through snow and mud collecting littered tickets, who are bearing the hurt.