Seeks residents’ help in saving Pequot

To the Editor:

Pequot Library was blind-sided by the Board of Finance’s recent decision to cut all funding for the library. As a result of a highly contentious (5-4) vote by the BOF, our community is suddenly at risk of losing Pequot. Our only chance to save Pequot is for the RTM to overturn this decision at its April 22 meeting.

This state of affairs comes as a complete shock. The Board of Selectmen had charged BOF member Chris DeWitt  to chair a “Not-For-Profit Committee” (NPC), whose mandate was to review how not-for-profits are funded by the town and propose a process for the future. The NPC has yet to complete its work and the review process for not-for-profits was never established.

Pequot welcomed the opportunity to show how our unique funding structure is a valuable investment for Fairfield. Pequot sent representatives to the NPC’s meetings. We offered to meet with Mr. DeWitt and help with his process. But no one met with us and Mr. DeWitt did not reply to our e-mails. At our annual budget meeting with the BOF (March 21), there was no indication a significant reduction was coming.

Imagine our shock to hear, with 24 hours notice, that the BOF was voting last week to cut all funding to Pequot. Mr. DeWitt and four other members of the BOF made this vote in a meeting that was closed to public comment. (Members Flynn, Walsh, Brown and LeClerc voted in our favor). Pequot was the only not-for-profit with a material budget cut, and was singled out to have its entire funding cut. No other line item in the entire budget of the town of Fairfield suffered this fate. This decision was arbitrary and capricious.

As the person supposedly in charge of establishing a process to review not-for-profit funding, Mr. DeWitt’s actions are completely incomprehensible. Fairfield’s citizens deserve better from its elected officials.

For over 120 years, Pequot Library has provided book lending, music, art exhibits, cultural programming and access to its rare books collection, free of charge, to all citizens of Fairfield and its neighboring communities. In fact, 81% of our patrons/donors are from outside the 06890 zip code.

For as long as anyone can remember, the town of Fairfield has provided one-third of Pequot Library’s operating budget. For every $1 from the town, Pequot Library then raises over $2 from private sources. This is a shining model of public-private partnership.

Pequot’s staff, board members and volunteers work tirelessly to garner the private support needed to fund two-thirds of its operating budget and all of its capital budget. Importantly, this funding structure imposes on Pequot a certain “market discipline” —  we must constantly evaluate and improve our services, and reinvigorate our fundraising to ensure private support.

This model of entrepreneurship is good for our patrons and good for Fairfield’s taxpayers. The result is that for an annual grant of $350,000 (one-twelfth of the funding for Fairfield’s municipal library) our community has Pequot Library — a thriving full-service library and cultural center.

Every year, Pequot lends tens of thousands of books, hosts scores of music concerts and programming events, and opens our facility to over 115,000 visitors and our over 30 community partners. We create lifelong memories at our Fourth of July Bike Parade, Easter Egg Roll and Holiday Caroling Party. Pequot is where generations of local families come to be educated, entertained and enriched.

Pequot Library is a wonderful and welcoming place. If you ask our staff and volunteers why they do what they do, you will hear stories of a love for books, a passion for education and the arts, and the lifelong reward of putting smiles on children’s faces. We love Fairfield and are proud of the services we provide all of Fairfield’s citizens. Please reach out to your RTM representative and encourage them to save Pequot Library.

 

William P. Russell Jr.

President, Board of Trustees

Pequot Library

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