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Ada County Commissioners decide against putting Meridian Library District dissolution on ballot

The three commissioners, all Republicans, said there are other, more narrowly tailored ways to address concerns about what's in some of the library's books.

BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

The Ada County Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously denied a petition to dissolve the Meridian Library District, and will not put the question on the ballot.

Had the commissioners approved the petition, an election would have been held to determine the library's fate. In their denial, the commissioners cited the cost of elections, the disruption to library services an election would cause, and the availability of other potential avenues to resolve the issue.

If voters decided to dissolve the library district, all of the district's property and assets would be disposed of by the Ada County Board of Commissioners.

A group called Concerned Citizens of Meridian brought a petition for dissolution to the commissioners in February because of materials they deem harmful that are available to minors.

The Idaho Press searched the Meridian Library's database and found that many of the books the group references are not available at that library.

Concerned Citizens co-founder Phil Reynolds declined to comment before the meeting, and afterward said he would ask the group's spokesperson to reach out. 

"I do think concerns about materials in libraries are valid … they were worthy of a public hearing," Commissioner Ryan Davidson said Wednesday at the Ada County Courthouse. "The question going forward is, based on that, is dissolution of the library district the appropriate remedy to address these particular concerns?"

Davidson said there were several resolution options that were more narrowly tailored to the book issue, including submitting a proposal for a vote at a library board meeting and the upcoming Meridian Library Trustee election, which will be held May 16.

Multiple commissioners also mentioned the proposed library bills making their way through the Legislature — they too target material deemed "harmful" to minors — which Library Director Nick Grove touched on after the meeting.

"I don't know if there's a sense of relief. There's other things that are hanging in the air for libraries," Grove said. "It is comforting to know that the commissioners heard and saw how much our community loves, supports and wants our library."

In two days of public hearings that drew hundreds of people and thousands of messages sent to the board of commissioners, the majority of people showed support for the library. Even the Concerned Citizens said they want a library in Meridian.

"To dissolve a district would be overwhelmingly disruptive," Commissioner Rod Beck said Wednesday at the Ada County Courthouse. "I would hope that the library board and petitioners can get together and resolve some of these differences."

At least one other commissioner asked the Meridian Library Board to work on a dialogue.

Jeff Kohler, Meridian Library District Board of Trustees vice-chair, said after the meeting, "we'll see," whether the board decides to do so.

"I would say that we've made great efforts to work with the Concerned Citizens of Meridian," Kohler said. "Unfortunately, their demands have not been demands that we felt as a board we could meet. The commissioners talked about agree to disagree. I think we're at that point."

The Concerned Citizens group has been making itself known in the past year, including by showing up to board meetings and planning a prayer vigil in front of the library director’s house.

“At least now we’ll be heard,” Concerned Citizens of Meridian co-founder Mike Hon said during a previous hearing, gesturing to the media. “... We don’t take this lightly. We don’t want to do this. But we have no other choice.”

Meridian Library Board of Trustees Chair Megan Larsen in past testimony referenced court case after court case to explain why the library can’t segregate books based on their content. And she told the Idaho Press about another election that matters.

“The next trustee election is in May 16,” Larsen previously told the Idaho Press. “Two seats will be on the ballot and residents can vote for the candidates that best represent what they value about the library.”

This story will be updated.

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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