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Boulder Public Library materials handler Katherine Rhodes restocks shelves on Tuesday in Boulder. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
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The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the resiliency of staff amid significant budget cuts and instability led the conversation during a Boulder City Council study session on Tuesday in which the council heard updates from various city boards and commissions.

Geoff Simpson browses through books to check out from the Boulder Public Library on Tuesday in Boulder. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

Almost every representative of the dozens of city boards and commissions referenced the impact of the pandemic, and those who represented or worked with city departments typically acknowledged the flexibility of staff, who had to continue work despite the uncertainty of the year.

Raj Seymour, a member of Boulder’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, highlighted staff’s “ability to constantly change with the dynamic with COVID-19 and all the adjustments that were able to be made.”

In terms of bouncing back from the financial challenges of 2020, Boulder Public Library Commission emphasized the benefit of forming a library district as a means of providing a more stable source of funding for the city’s library system through property taxes. The conversation is particularly timely in light of the 17% cut to its budget the library experienced because of the pandemic, the commission noted.

Library commission members and staff said they are hopeful that conversations about library district formation will renew in 2021. That conversation was put on hold when the pandemic broke out.

Because of financial constraints, the library has been unable to open its branch libraries and it’s offering reduced services at its main library because of health restrictions and budget cuts. The library “serves everyone,” according to commission member Jane Sykes-Wilson, so the reduction in service can be detrimental.

“The library really is unlike any other space in Boulder,” Sykes-Wilson said Tuesday.

In a discussion that occurred later in the meeting, Interim City Manager Chris Meschuk included an update on the city’s library and arts plan for 2021. The library district discussion will be prioritized, with a refresher study session set for Feb. 23 and a public hearing that will likely be scheduled some time in the second quarter of the year.

Boulder Public Library book drop helper Jon Bennett wheels a cart of returned items past the front entrance of the library before placing the items in a three-day quarantine on Tuesday. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

Several representatives, including Charlotte Pitts, of the Housing Advisory Board; Lindsey Loberg, of the Human Relations Commission; and Seymour, of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, discussed issues of homelessness and housing, though each had a different take.

Pitts and Loberg both referenced the joint effort of the Housing Advisory Board and the Human Relations Commission to find solutions for those experiencing homelessness.

“From our perspective and our experience, there are a lot of Boulderites experiencing homelessness who are underserved, unserved and overpoliced,” Loberg said.

Pitts also noted that members of HAB often feel disenfranchised and think the board could be better utilized. HAB often has a different opinion than some councilmembers, which Pitts said is vital for rich discourse.

Seymour, on the other hand, said many community members are reluctant to visit Boulder parks because of increased use by people experiencing homelessness.

“The current conditions are not acceptable to a broad swath of the community,” he said.

Boulder City Council on Tuesday also discussed its two-year work plan as well as city departments’ priorities and capacity. However, those conversations concluded after the Camera’s print deadline.

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