City cracking down on book borrowers

Mike Linn

Local librarians scored a major victory in the never-ending battle to recoup books when the Portales City Council adopted an ordinance that would make not returning a book a petty misdemeanor.
The ordinance passed by a 6-1 vote at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. Council member Jake Lopez cast the lone no vote.
City officials said they don’t want to use this ordinance as a means to rack up criminal records for unsuspecting teens and unorganized adults.
“We don’t intend to make criminals out of everybody who has forgotten to bring back a book,” co-interim city manager Tom Howell said. “We just need the muscle to get them into court so we can recoup the costs of the books.”
Portales Public Library Director Denise Burnett told the council she has over $38,000 worth of books lost or stolen over the years.
“We’re not collecting fines like we used to,” Burnett said. “Ten years ago I used to go to people’s houses and knock on their doors and say ‘hey do you have a book, because I’m here to pick it up.’ But it’s not safe to do that anymore, or at least I’m older and don’t do that anymore.”
Library officials can not write off library fines, Burnett said, but they can write off fines if the borrower is taken to court for such losses.
In a librarian-like decision, Burnett said she’d rather make youngsters read as opposed to making them pay fines, which is exactly part of her plan.
Burnett has set up a system that would knock $8 off late fees for every hour a teen spends reading at the library.

Also at the meeting:
l The city council opted to table the amending of two ordinances relating to economic development planning.
Ordinance No. 647 states that a seven-member committee would review applications of businesses seeking assistance from the city of Portales: Three members of Portales Development Corporation, one member of Portales Mainstreet Organization, the city manager (or his designee), one member of city council and one lay citizen appointed by the mayor.
The review committee would also have an ad hoc committee of city officials.
The city council will vote to adopt both ordinances at the next city council meeting scheduled for Dec. 2.
l The city council allocated $17,415 to the Portales Mainstreet Organization: $10,000 for annual funding and the remainder to match funds Portales Mainstreet gathered through various donations.
Portales city attorney Steve Doerr said the money would go to beautification projects.