Naomi Perry has at least four more days to remove dozens of boxes of donated books, DVDs, and other supplies from the basement of Stockton Town Hall. The Stockton Library Legacy, first pitched in concept at the July 13, 2017, Stockton Town Council meeting, will pack up and leave before it ever opened.
The books, DVDs, old Stockton mining tools, furniture and craft supplies will be stored in Perry’s garage until the library and community center finds a new location.
“A huge driving force, and the reason I started this library … is because I wanted to create a place for youth,” Perry said. “A safe place in town where they could go and find a friend, to congregate and hang out, to have a place where they felt safe.”
Stockton Mayor Thomas Karjola said the library was started without proper agreements and protections for the town in place. The work in the Town Hall basement began after former Mayor Mark Whitney offered the space to Perry. The basement was formerly used for storage.
“This is something that I’ve wanted and been in support of, but the cart was put before the horse,” Karjola said.
In the town council meeting minutes from July 13, 2017, Perry introduced the idea of a community center and library for resident use. The nearest library to Stockton is in Tooele City and charges a $30 annual fee to non-residents.
During that meeting, the minutes indicate Perry said the community center and library would be nonprofit and she would apply for grant funding. The town council suggested Perry create a business plan and development plan, including a cost analysis and budget, the minutes said.
“After that is completed then come back and present it at a Town Council Meeting,” the minutes said. “Then, when all of the steps to develop this business are completed, the council will be supportive of her efforts.”
The meeting minutes do not indicate which council member or members specifically spoke at that point of the meeting.
At a Feb. 1 special meeting, Perry returned before the town council to tell them Karjola, then serving as mayor pro tempore following the resignation of Whitney, had told her the basement was not Americans with Disabilities Act accessible and the library space was given to Stockton Police Chief Travis Romney for an office.
“Yesterday, I was called down and told it wasn’t going to be able to be opened because of the (Americans with Disabilities Act) access and a failure, I guess, to ever plumb the bathrooms down there,” she said.
At that meeting, Karjola said the town hadn’t been able to stop work in the basement prior to Whitney’s resignation, which can only be accessed by two staircases and has no bathroom.
“It’s so unfair for you to have been allowed to put your blood sweat and tears and your heart and soul into this before knowing we can even open it,” Karjola said. “Because if we can’t meet ADA requirements, we can’t open it up.”
At the same meeting, Karjola was appointed to finish the rest of Whitney’s mayoral term, by a 3-1 vote in which he voted for himself, as a sitting member on the town council.
Perry said the space had previously been used to store town records, plat maps and office equipment. The town’s storage had been removed and the walls were painted, with books already moved into the space when it was turned over to Romney.
Karjola said the basement space turned over to the police department was made at Romney’s request. The mayor and police chief had previously shared the same space on the main floor of the Town Hall.
Romney said Karjola and Councilwoman Judy Bori told him they had concerns about the police chief and mayor working in the same space where they would be able to overhear criminal or employee-related conversations. Romney said he told Bori and Karjola he believed that could be a concern.
When asked about ADA accessibility concerns in moving the town’s only full-time officer into the basement, Karjola said there was not.
“No, because if … he needs to speak with anybody he can go out to them or he can always use my office if he needs to,” Karjola said.
Perry said she had plans to construct a wooden ramp to create wheelchair access to the basement and reached out to the state Division of State History about an ADA exception for the Town Hall, which previously served as a school.
In a March 12 email, state historic architect Donald Hartley said the ADA would require “alternate compliance” if a person can’t access the library’s physical location. The accommodations would include providing curbside service or home delivery of books, or providing materials through the internet.
“In the case of the Stockton Town Hall, the ramp on the east side of the building makes the upper floor level accessible for town services, the court, a restroom, and the museum,” Hartley’s email said. “Since the upper floor is accessible, library workers could easily confer with patrons and make library materials and other services available on the accessible level.”
Hartley also said the town could construct a modest addition, such as ramps or a wheelchair lift, but it would not be necessary to comply.
Karjola said that even if the library met the ADA requirement for compliance, the demands would be arduous. He also cited the lack of nonprofit status for the library and no library board as other roadblocks to hosting it in the town’s basement.
Karjola said the town has no written records of an agreement with Perry and would need a nonprofit or other entity with which to enter into an agreement.
Perry said there were multiple conversations with Whitney about using the basement for the library and he cited it in his January farewell letter, in which Whitney mentioned the Stockton Legacy Library.
“The basement of the building in (sic) currently in process of becoming a Community Center and “Stockton Legacy Library” through the efforts of Town residents led by Naomi Perry and her family,” Whitney’s letter said. “These individuals have worked diligently to establish a Non-Profit Organization to obtain supplies and books, and restore dilapidated storage rooms into clean, organized and usable space for the Town of Stockton.”
At the Oct. 11 meeting, the long delay on opening the library was mentioned by Bori and Karjola. The library was supposed to open in December 2017 or January 2018, but did not.
Perry said a difficult pregnancy, which completed with a cesarean section delivery at the end of June, kept her away from work on the library for several months. She said there has been difficulty getting volunteers for the library board and wanted the board in place prior to applying for nonprofit status.
While she wasn’t able to complete construction related work during her pregnancy, Perry said she focused on administrative tasks. She applied for and received recognition with the state Department of Heritage and Arts for the town hall as a historic building on Oct. 25.
After discussion at the Oct. 11 meeting, Bori made a motion to discontinue housing the library and its belongings in the basement. The motion, seconded by Councilwoman Vicki Nash, passed in a 3-0 vote, with councilmen David Nutzman and Nando Meli abstaining.
On Oct. 15, Perry was given a letter, which gave her 30 days to remove the library’s items from the basement, including books, shelving units, computers, and other property. Any items not removed in a timely manner could result in the town taking possession of the property and disposing of it, the letter said.
Karjola said if Perry is able to provide the documentation the town requires, including nonprofit status, a library board and business plan, she’s welcome to bring a proposal before the town council.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want this,” he said. “I mean, she’s trying to do a great thing for the community.”
Karjola said he can’t expose the town to the liability of having a group operating in a public building without a signed agreement and possible ADA concerns.
“I wish people would take the emotion out of it and understand that we have to do things the right way in order to protect the citizens of this town,” he said.
For Perry, removing more than a year’s worth of effort is heavy-hearted work. She said the library received donations of books, paint and other construction supplies from Home Depot and Walmart, wood flooring from the Stansbury Library, and labor for shelving and other improvements from Eagle Scout projects.
Old carpeting was removed in the basement and disposed of to make way for tile, according to Perry.
“It was hundreds of hours we were down there,” she said. “We had a lot to clean up. We had a lot to move.”
Now all of the books and supplies are destined for her garage, until she finds another home for the library in the town.