Supervisors approve plan to eliminate County Library overdue book fees beginning Jan. 1

Pay raises for Deputy District Attorneys, Deputy Public Defenders approved

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Library system will end the practice of charging daily fines and charges for overdue books and materials in a bid to encourage more families with children to use the 26-branch public library system commencing Jan. 1.

Library officials are also setting bigger sights that patrons will check out materials via the library system’s e-books.

Contra Costa County Supervisors approved the Contra Costa County Library Commission’s proposal on a 4-0 vote Tuesday with Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond absent.

While the supervisors’ action will eliminate fees for overdue book and materials, supervisors doubled the processing charge for lost or damaged library materials from $5 per item to $10 per item.  Those charges have not been revised since 1995 and no longer reflect the actual processing costs, Contra Costa County Librarian Melinda Cervantes wrote in a brief to supervisors.

The Contra Costa County Library system will be the largest public library network in the Golden State to cease the practice of charging for overdue fees after 30 days.  The Berkeley Public Library and San Diego Public Library have also adopted similar no overdue fee policies.

Library patrons will not be charged fees if they return materials held more than 30 days after the due date.  Overdue library material fines represent 2% of the library system’s budgeted revenue and have declined by 31 percent since fiscal year 2013-2014, county librarian Cervantes said. “During this same period, circulation of e-books and e-resources have risen 128 percent” Cervantes wrote in her report to the supervisors.  “E-resources are already fine free and benefit those with greater access to technology,” she continued.

With the supervisors’ action, the county library will reduce its annual acquisition of library books by $300,000 to offset the reduction in estimated revenue.

Cervantes said the library commission based its recommendation to eliminate overdue fines from the basic finding in the report “Issue Brief on Advancing Racial Equity in Public Libraries” that was drafted by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.  The report identified library fines as a form of “structural racism” where people who have difficulty paying fines have negative experiences that prevent them from library and computer use and or being reported to a collection agency.

By supervisorial District 2, which Candace Andersen of San Ramon represents posted the most in outstanding overdue late fines, according to library commission data.  Her district compiled $1, 224,230 million in overdue fees followed by District 3 represented by Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood with $937,342 in fines.  Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill’s District 4 piled up $907,021 in fees and Pittsburg’s Supervisor Federal Glover’s District 5 accumulated $781,036 in late fines.  Supervisor Gioia’s District 1 compiled the least number of fines with $757,718.

TRC Solutions Gets Keller Canyon Soils Contract

While supervisors hashed over the routine-like three-year environmental impact review of the Keller Canyon Landfill operation near Pittsburg, the elected officials also learned that the consulting firm of TRC Solutions has been under contract since late October to conduct soil studies on whether radioactive materials from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard were illegally dumped at the landfill.

At Contra Costa Herald deadline, representatives from District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover’s office, the Contra Costa Environmental Health Department, and from TRC Solutions had not returned telephone requests to answer questions as to why the contract was awarded to the company under a shroud of secrecy in late October and to reveal how much the county is paying for the consultant’s work.

Based on information that the Contra Costa Herald has gathered, TRC Solutions started work on the six-month contract on Oct. 29.  The company is expected to analyze data, provide next step recommendations, conduct a process to gather communications, and convene a community meeting.

Public outcry over how Republic Services, which operates the landfill, erupted during the summer when an article in the San Francisco Chronicle exposed the possibility that radioactive materials from the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard may have been deposited at Keller Canyon Landfill.  That article triggered community outcry, meetings and eventually a request by the county to hire a soils expert to detect if radioactive waste exists on the landfill site.

Concerning the landfill’s three-year environmental impact review, supervisors voted 4-0 to accept the report.

New Contracts for Deputy District Attorneys, Deputy Public Defenders Approved

Supervisors unanimously approved two four-year contracts, one for Deputy District Attorneys and another pact for Deputy Public Defenders.

Along with improved health benefits, attorneys belonging to the District Attorney Association will, in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, cumulatively watch salaries rise $576,000, $1.9 million in 2019/2020, $2.5 million in 2020/2021 and $3.4 million in 2021/2022.

Members of the county Deputy Public Defenders Association will see salaries rise over the next four years.  Supervisors set aside to $959,000 in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, $2.6 million in 2019/2020, $3.2 million in 2020/2021 and $4 million in 2021/2022 to raise salaries.

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