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The Villages
Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Sumter library deal was one of two landed Tuesday by LSSI

The $2 million contract that Library Systems & Services LLC picked up Tuesday evening with Sumter County, was one of two contracts the Maryland company won that day.

LSSI also picked up a $1.3 million contract to operate the Moreno Valley Public Library in California in the first year of the deal. The annual rate of the five-year contract increases to $1.4 million in the fifth year of the deal, according to a report in the Press-Enterpirse of Riverside, Calif.

Under the agreement, the library’s 23 employees will be laid off by Sept. 15, but Moreno Valley retains ownership of the building and materials.

“This is the hardest decision I have made,” Mayor Tom Owings was quoted as saying in the Press-Enterprise. The discussion included a proposal by Moreno Valley Library Services Division Manager Paula Smus to postpone the decision for one year to allow more time for the economy to rebound and for questions about the contract to be answered.

LSSI projects Moreno Valley will save $250,000 to $300,000 each year, for a total cost savings of more than $1.36 million over five years, primarily by not paying salaries or benefits.

Meanwhile, on that same day,  the Sumter County Commission voted to outsource its county’s public library services.

The Sumter commission will contract for nearly $2 million for the first year with LSSI. The vote was 4-1. Commissioner Don Burgess cast the only dissenting vote.

The vote came after a nearly two-hour public comment period at the meeting at Colony Cottage Recreation Center. The packed house often grew angry and Sumter County Commission Charirman Doug Gilpin threatened to clear the room more than once.

Like the deal in Moreno Valley, Sumter County also retains ownership of the library buildings.

Those in the audience Tuesday argued that LSSI was getting “free rent” as the county will continue to pay for buildings upkeep, power, maintenance and landscaping.

Here in The Villages, the impacted libraries are the Villages Public Library at Pinellas Plaza and the Villages Public Library at Belvedere. All libraries in Sumter County fall under the new LSSI contract.

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