Three Rivers Public Library, Lockport Township in funding negotiations

Three Rivers Public Library, 88 N. Main St., Three Rivers. (Courtesy Three Rivers Public Library)

Will the Three Rivers Public Library continue to receive the same funding it’s gotten from Lockport Township in the past? Will Lockport Township successfully renegotiate the funding terms? If so, will that prevent the library from receiving state aid?

Several questions are currently unanswered, but one thing multiple people familiar with the situation insist is that there does not appear to be any outright disinterest in the library itself.

“I think there’s a lot of disinformation going around,” Lockport Township Treasurer Mike Friesner said. “(It’s saying) that we’re ready to pull out of the library or don’t want to fund the library. I think that’s further from the truth.”

The Lockport Township Council met Monday, July 8. Prior to that, the council had asked to set up a meeting about renegotiating its contract to support the library.

Interim Library Director Erin Zabonick explained the current funding situation. Continuing to receive aid from the State of Michigan means the Three Rivers Public Library needs to keep meeting certain requirements.

The terms for city libraries like Three Rivers include receiving a minimum of a 3/10th mill of taxable value in funding. According to, one mill is equal to one tenth of one penny, or one 1/1000 of a dollar.

Lockport Township Council Supervisor Mark Major did not respond to Watershed Voice’s phone and email messages prior to this article’s deadline. For budget purposes, the council seeks to know exactly how much it would pay each year for library funding, both Friesner and Zabonick said.

“They wanted to do a set thing, with a 2% increase each year until year three, and then go forward from there,” Zabonick said.

The next library board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 23. In the meantime, library leaders are trying to figure out if there’s a way that funding can be maintained and adjust each year without disruption.

“If you look at the last 10 years or even 20 years, (the growth has) been more than 3%. We’re trying to see if there’s some wiggle room to stay eligible for that. They (the Lockport Township Council) had met and said this is our offer,” Zabonick said.

A township council meeting on Monday, July 8 included at least nine residents speaking in favor of the Three Rivers Public Library. Speakers included Ben Karle.

“I don’t know all the particulars,” Karle said. “I’ve heard rumors. I hope that this is not about an adult squabble and instead about what’s best for the community and best for families.”

The Three Rivers Public Library is important to his family, clients and community, Karle said. He urges more residents to get out and voice their support for the library.

“Everyone has a story about what they value at the public library. It’s such a vital piece of what makes the community run. I strongly encourage folks to speak out on what the library means to them,” Karle said.

Zabonick said the Three Rivers Public Library still wants to negotiate with the Lockport Township Council. The library board will meet this month to create a counteroffer to be presented to the council.

Communication is going to be key, both sides say.

“We’ve gotten big support from our people,” Zabonick said. “We know that libraries are super important to our community members. I know that several came to the meeting last night (Monday) to sing our praises and ask what they can do to fill the gap. It’s been cool to see that.”

Zabonick also said as of July, Park Township is the only township that chose not to continue providing library services for its residents. Fabius Township wanted clarification on how the Three Rivers Public Library was funded before Zabonick became director. After that, they opted to still provide funding.

“We just want to do the best for our community,” Zabonick said.