The Deer Park Chamber of Commerce has accused the Spokane County Library District of exploiting the town to obtain a $61,000 grant. Library officials said that claim is false.
The disagreement stems from a grant the county library system pursued and won earlier this year to start a small business training program called the Small Business Boot Camp to provide include child care, business experts and small grants for businesses that completed the program. The program application opens in September, but may not include every aspect that originally was planned due to coronavirus restrictions.
The grant, funded by the American Library Association and Google, was one of several awarded to smaller libraries that serve low-income and under-represented communities.
Both organizations say they began discussing the grant early in the year and sharing information and ideas, but their relationship and communication soured this summer.
In an email to members Friday, Deer Park Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Danielle Holstine said the library partnered with a downtown business development organization, which she declined to name, instead of her organization.
Holstine said library officials used information and ideas from the Deer Park business group to acquire a grant to promote an “agenda that does not reflect our community and will benefit their existing partnerships and plans.”
She argued that the library should have included them in the process every step of the way instead of moving on without them once they were awarded the money.
“They listened to what we needed, (but) they then rudely cut us out,” she said in an interview Friday afternoon.
Patrick Roewe, executive director of the Spokane County Library District, said the accusations were inaccurate.
And he worried that claims of the library exploiting the town or misusing money could lead to Deer Park businesses shunning a program designed specifically to help them.
“We’re hopeful that the perpetuation of this notion doesn’t discourage business owners into applying for the program,” he said.
He said the two organizations had some miscommunications and misunderstandings over the past few months that have been left unresolved. But Roewe said the grant would only be used to benefit Deer Park businesses.
“We’ve been serving the Deer Park community for 65 years, so our agenda is to provide resources and learning opportunities that help the community grow and thrive and learn,” he said.
Roewe added that they had discussed obtaining a speaker for the program with Greater Spokane Incorporated, but did not end up partnering with them so there was no downtown organization in the city of Spokane that the library was choosing to work with over the Deer Park Chamber of Commerce.
He said the library tried to work through issues with the Deer Park Chamber earlier in the summer without success and ended up having to move forward without resolving them so they could fulfill the requirements of the grant.
“It’s unfortunate, but we had to move forward with the grant,” he said. “We had an obligation as the grant recipient.”
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