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Cumberland County Budget May Force Libraries To Close

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SPRING LAKE — Libraries are usually packed with kids during the summer. A budget battle in Cumberland County could close the books on a couple of popular spots that are a hit with kids and their parents.

Alex Buckmire loves to read. He and his brother ride their bikes to the new Spring Lake library four times a week.

"We'll read a book. Sometimes we will read two books," Buckmire says. "If they close it down, we won't have any place to go for recreation."

After opening just a year ago in Spring Lake, the community branch may close its doors.

"We spent years to develop these branches and develop nationwide recognition for the level of programming and services that we offer in these facilities so it's not a fun task," says library director Jerry Thrasher.

Under the most recent county budget, the library system would lose $500,000 in funding. Only one other county department would be hit as hard.

Library Trustee Doris Lewis is distributing flyers across the county. She hopes people will fight back at the next county budget meeting.

"I truly think it would be a disaster for them not to open," Lewis says.

After a mile walk to the library, Ingrid Correa and her three children do not want to see the library closed.

"A lot of the things we do, we do with the library," Correa says. "We grow along with it."

The Cumberland County commissioners could vote on their budget Monday. It does not include a tax increase, and several commissioners want to keep it that way. The 4 p.m. meeting will be held at High Smith Rainey Hospital to accomodate Commissioner Tom Bacote, who is hospitalized for emphysema.

Many of Cumberland County's budget woes are the result of debt.

The county must pay $2.1 million toward the new Department of Social Services building. It owes $4.5 million for the new jail under construction. Almost $5 million is due on bonds to build new schools.

The county manager says the budget could get even tighter in the future. The new, larger jail will require a significant increase in staffing.