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Who Let the Dogs Out?: Super Cooper did and he also stole some place mats to make himself a cape.

Nüz

Library Wars

Sitting atop a modest hill, the Felton Public Library looks charmingly inviting, but the rickety old building recently triggered a turf war after a library official reportedly began its closing process without public discussion. Santa Cruz Public Libraries director ANNE TURNER stands accused of soliciting support from individual library board members to shut down the Felton branch without public input. Alarmed, county Supe MARK STONE sent a turgid letter to Turner, denouncing the process as undemocratic and unfair. Saying Turner's actions were "inappropriate and against policy," Stone says he's determined to keep the Felton branch open so land that a Felton resident recently donated can be used to expand the location architecturally.

"Felton residents passed a quarter-cent sales tax increase so they could have more books, longer hours and more trained staff, but all they've received are less hours and now the possibility of closing the branch altogether." Turner initially maintained she hadn't broken any rules.

"I'm disappointed that I've been vilified over this issue, because I've violated no rule," says Turner, who later admitted to violating the Brown Act at a library meeting on Monday night, when the library board voted unanimously against shutting any of the 10 branches. Nevertheless, she defended her position. "I'm trying to find a solution to an unpopular problem. Everyone seems to forget that a newer, bigger, more equipped LIVE OAK branch will be opening in the wake of this debate."

Turner claims that closing the library would mean more resources and qualified staff for the new branch at Live Oak, which is scheduled to open later this year, and to which all current Felton branch employees will be relocated. Stone doesn't deny the complexities of keeping the Felton Library afloat, but is distressed over what he sees as the underhanded nature of Turner's private meetings with committee members. "She has encouraged me to vote for a proposal that has been set up not to pass from the get-go. I don't think this is the way this committee should operate," says Stone.

Turner remains steadfast in her recommendation.

"I don't have the power to close the Felton branch. That isn't my job," says Turner. "Because of its lack of space and centrality, I believe the branch is unsuitable for a modern library facility. It would be a nonissue for current employees to commute to other branches."

Turner says if the Felton branch is closed, the $173,000 budget deficit would fall to less than $17,000, the already financially strapped county Book and Media budget would be spared the cutting block, and library hours would remain the same. She notes that the 1,250-square-foot facility is the smallest branch in the Santa Cruz Public Library system (so tiny, employees take their breaks in their cars or outside), with little room for physical expansion without costly fees, and that Felton residents could access the BOULDER CREEK and SCOTTS VALLEY branches, in the event the Felton Library closes. Stone agrees the branch is space-challenged, but says Turner should not assume staff or residents have the means to travel to other branches.

Constructed in 1893 and deeded to the county in 1956, Felton's New England-style Faye G. Belardi Memorial Library was once a Presbyterian Church. Today, it houses more than 22,000 books, with the county still making payments on the space. According to Turner, "The residents of Felton are probably more in love with the building than with the library."

Stone disagrees."I've received countless phone calls, emails and faxes over the weekend from not only the people of Felton, but also county residents who are very upset about the library closing," says Stone. "A library closing is not an isolated incidence. The library is a vital component of Felton, and closing it would be very disrespectful and inconsiderate to its residents."

SCCARRED Children

On the face of it, the opposition to the rail corridor connecting Watsonville to Davenport sounds like good ol'-fashioned NIMBYism, so imagine Nüz's surprise when we found out that the SANTA CRUZ COALITION AGAINST RECREATIONAL RAIL (SCCARRED--don't ask us what the "ED" stands for) is doing it all for the helpless, vulnerable little children.

Aptos resident SYLVIA PREVITALI wrote a letter to the SCCRTC, claiming thousands of children who live or go to school by the train line will be exposed to "increased danger of contamination." What kind of contamination, you ask? Previtali has a list, including "increased loud noise exposure, stress from unwanted and sudden noise of train whistles and bells, the rumble and vibration of tons of metal being carried by iron wheels on iron tracks, the flaking of heavy metal into air and soils as trains slow down or stop, increased diesel exhaust in the air. Automobile or bus contamination would come from cars having to be on freeways and side streets to bring persons to the train stations." Over at www.sccarred.org, Nüz found a bold, all-caps headline shouting "YOU COULD LOSE YOUR OWN PROPERTY!" above a warning from county Supe ELLEN PIRIE that "the rail-trail authority has the power of eminent domain in case there is private property along the rail line which is needed for the trail."

Sccarry stuff, but Nüz is here to inform you that brave folk like Previtali are willing to lay themselves on the line--the rail line--to save us all from a recreational rail and trail. BIKE 2 WORK and PEOPLE POWER had convinced Union Pacific to let them run a train from Roaring Camp to Watsonville to give locals a chance to experience a functioning rail corridor in the county, but when protestors promised to block the tracks with their bodies, UP pulled the plug,. All of which hasn't deterred folks behind the May 22 Santa Cruz Rail and Trail Day from working on alternative events aimed at raising awareness of and support for the line.

In the meantime, Previtali has her own alternative proposal: "Why not consider putting a "quiet rail corridor" on the east side of Highway 1 in the Nisene Marks Park?"

Super Cooper

A rare photo of COOPER, the flying, animal rights-advocating Chihuahua, winged its way to our office last week thanks to ROBERT DIXON, who claims his pup is astounded that a liberal place like Santa Cruz has stricter downtown dog ordinances than Capitola or Carmel. Cooper, if you're reading this, here's an explanation--city of SC Parks & Rec director and dog-owner DANNETTEE SHOEMAKER says downtown is "such a high-populated area that dogs and people don't always mix."

"Unfortunately," continues Shoemaker, "not all pet owners pick up after their dog. ... Dogs are animals, and they can be unpredictable no matter how well-trained they are."

Happy flying, Cooper.

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From the May 4-11, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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