Recently, Clayton Town Manager Steve Biggs said something that should drive the thinking of all town managers. Talking about how improvements to Town Hall would allow better communication with residents, Mr. Biggs said, “We want to tell them about the value of in-town living.”
Mr. Biggs has made value in Clayton living a priority. During his tenure, the town has raised police pay and training, taken steps to ensure ample water and sewer capacity, welcomed growth while mandating quality development, and built parks, greenways and public squares.
At the same time, Clayton has been quite welcoming to nonresidents. Its parks and greenways are open to out-of-towners at no charge. And for out-of-town residents, the cost to take part in parks and recreation programs isn’t much more than the fee for in-town residents. Indeed, several years ago, when a council member suggested that out-of-towners pay considerably more for recreation programs, Mr. Biggs frowned on the idea, arguing that Clayton should want more people in its rec programs, not fewer.
We’re perplexed then as to why Clayton leaders don’t want more people to use the town’s public library.
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For anyone who has been away for a while, Clayton’s Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library is leaving the county’s loose network of libraries, choosing instead to stand on its own. Clayton library leaders say they want greater control and flexibility than the county network affords.
But the proposed fee schedule for out-of-town library use is a departure from Clayton’s welcoming attitude toward nonresidents. Town residents will pay nothing out of pocket for library use, while nonresidents will pay not only for library cards but also for Internet use.
Mr. Biggs says the library will use revenue from nonresidents to expand its collection. But we suspect library leaders will be disappointed with the actual income; folks on the Smithfield and Selma sides of Clayton might choose to use those libraries instead of paying Clayton fees.
We have never been fans of Clayton’s decision to leave the county network of libraries. We think even less of the decision now that Clayton appears ready to discourage nonresidents from using its library.