By James Matthews
Chris Stephenson believes a dedicated vehicle will bring multi-faceted growth to the Haliburton County Public Library.
And Stephenson, the library’s chief executive officer and chief librarian, rallied the HCPL board of directors to open the purse to buy a van costing up to $40,000.
“We’re at the point where we need to make some decisions,” he said as part of the second of two presentations regarding the need for a new van dedicated to library services.
The library currently shares a van with other Haliburton County departments. It’s 11 years old and has about 207,000 kilometres behind it. Or staff and volunteers use their own vehicles for library service delivery.
Stephenson said a vehicle dedicated solely to the library would lead to growth in many ways. And, given the library service’s financial footing, a new van could be bought without having to dip into reserve funds, he said.
The library has a stable staff contingent, no shelf space to buy more books, and the computer equipment has life left. That means there are no such expenses in the offing, he said. And there are few other avenues for libraries to spend budgeted funds.
“Our 2022 budget will still balance,” he said.
In the end, the board went with Stephenson’s recommendation to buy a Dodge Ram ProMaster City Van. The upfront costs are pegged to be $38,440. The total costs over a seven-year lifecycle are calculated to be $84,052.
That was the vehicle deemed to be more suitable to what’s required by the library.
The other contenders seriously considered for purchase were a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle and a Toyota RAV 4 Prime gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle.
“It’s good for an organization that criss-crosses the county all year to have regular access to a vehicle,” Stephenson said.
But the vehicle has to meet certain specifications.
Given the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the county, the Bolt and even a hybrid choice is rendered an unwise choice. And, given the volume of book bins and other programming materials transported throughout the county, cargo space is paramount.
“We’re a small system covering a wide geography,” Stephenson said.
Staff routinely ship between 10 to 15 book bins, various pieces of office furniture, and other program material to varied branch locations.
“We’re also returning to pre-pandemic levels of service,” Stephenson said.
That means as many as 17 to 20 extra book bins to be lugged about the county. To ask staff and volunteers to haul that kind of freight with their personal vehicles increases wear and tear on family cars.
Warden Liz Danielsen, the deputy mayor of Algonquin Highlands, said buying an electric vehicle would be environmentally conscious in an age of climate change awareness. At the very least, she’d like to see a hybrid vehicle bear the library colours.
But Danielsen said it’s simply the wrong time to buy an electric vehicle given the dearth of charging stations in the county.
Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts agreed.
“We should be getting a vehicle that best suits our needs,” Roberts said.
Stephenson suggested there may soon be such changes in the automobile market that an electric vehicle that could meet high cargo demands would be available.
“I think things will advance significantly in the next five to six years,” said David O’Brien, a library board member.
Besides, said Roberts, the board doesn’t have to keep the gas-only van for the whole seven-year lifecycle that’s been projected for each option. A future library board may consider trading it in three or four years, she said.
“I think this will be a huge asset to the library,” said Sally Howson, a library board member.
Stephenson said: “It’s going to be a huge game-changer in terms of what we’re able to do.”