By Lucas Vader
At a recent open meeting between the Delta County Board of Commissioners and the Delta City Council, the commissioners discussed a prospect for the county to take over the Delta library location in order to give the Delta County Jail a necessary expansion.
Later clarifying, Commissioner Don Suppes stated that these negotiations are in a very early stage and that the plan in no way involves leaving the City of Delta without a library, nor do they include the demolition of the historic building which serves as the current library location.
The Delta Library is a Carnegie library, meaning it was one of 2,509 libraries built with money donated by Andrew Carnegie, historic businessman and philanthropist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The age, openness and size of the building causes temperature regulation to be inefficient and the building is overdue for important maintenance, as previously stated by library staff. These are not issues that the library or City of Delta has the resources to remedy.
“We were actually approached by the library,” Suppes said. “They were looking to try to find some avenue to get themselves a better, more efficient building that they could actually afford to operate.” Suppes referenced city council discussions from November, when the council decided not to provide certain funding for the Delta County Libraries to do maintenance work and upgrades on the Delta location due to its tight budget for 2020.
The Delta County Sheriff’s Office and the Delta County Jail are currently part of the same building. The current discussion suggests that a good way to accomplish all pieces of the expansion project would be to move the sheriff’s office into the library building and expand the jail internally so that it fills the entirety of its current building. At the site of the sheriff’s office and the library, no external construction would theoretically be done. Instead, it would be interior remodels for both.
Meanwhile, the new, more efficient library would be constructed elsewhere, potentially next to Bill Heddles Recreation Center, according to Suppes.
“It was the perfect storm,” Suppes said. “The library needs an updated facility they can afford to maintain, the city really needs something they’re not having to maintain with the failure of [the library’s ballot issue in November], and the county, we’ve got to do something to increase capacity in our jail.”
According to Sheriff Mark Taylor on several occasions, the Delta County Jail is constantly near or above its capacity of 58 inmates and has been since about January of 2019. Taylor stated in March that 2019 was the first time in 30 years that the Delta County Sheriff’s Office had to introduce arrest standards.
According to Suppes, the ability to expand the current jail instead of building a new one would save millions of dollars in taxpayer money. “If the county has to build a new jail, just a jail would be probably 40-50 million dollars,” Suppes said.
These plans are still entirely in the negotiation phase, in which no decisions have been brought up at city council or county commissioner meetings. All prospects of the future of the library and the jail have been discussions between the commissioners and the library district until this point. At one point, Suppes spoke to Mayor Nathan Clay about the concept, but no official business was conducted there either Suppes said.
Now, according to Suppes, the City of Delta is going to start a committee, the county, the city and the library district are going to have official meetings together to discuss the prospect. Suppes said he hopes for this to happen in the next month, though it is still “purely conceptional” at this time.
“Once we have some ideas there, then we’ll have something we can move forward with and take into a solid plan,” Suppes said.
Tracy Ihnot, Delta County Libraries communication and outreach administrator, sent the press an official statement on the issue which read, “We are currently in negotiations with the City of Delta and Delta County regarding the Delta Library building. We have no further comments but would like to assure the Delta community that we are committed to providing library services in Delta.”
As the prospect is still in the conceptional phase, no more information is known at this time. The DCI will report further on this as information becomes available.