Ashland didn't settle for less

Ashland has shown the way. Now it's fair to ask, "Where's Medford?"

Ashland voters on Tuesday handily approved a local option levy to extend the Ashland library's hours to 40 per week, adding to the 24 hours the county will provide by contracting with a Maryland corporation.

Not only did 53 percent of registered voters cast ballots, easily topping the required 50 percent turnout, but nearly 75 percent of those were yes votes.

Faced with what many in the community considered an inadequate level of library service offered by the county, Ashland civic leaders put a measure on the ballot to levy up to 58 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation — enough to operate the Ashland library independent of any county support. The county subsequently announced plans to contract with a private company for a reduced level of service at reduced cost, so Ashland property owners will pay only 20 cents per $1,000 this fiscal year and 25 cents next year.

When all is said and done, Ashland residents will have 40 hours of library service every week, and those who live in Medford — the largest city in the county with the largest library — will have to get by with 24.

Part of the blame for that situation must lie at the feet of Medford leaders, who were less than responsive when the county-wide library failed in May, and didn't bother to respond when county officials asked for suggestions from local cities on restoring library service.

In contrast, Ashland Mayor John Morrison wasted no time in speaking out.

"We're going to open the thing up," he vowed the day after the countywide levy failure.

On the same day, Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler said library service was important, but that the city didn't have the money to operate the library on its own.

So Medford residents will take what the county gives them, while Ashlanders dig down and pay extra for the service they want.

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