The Flagler County Public Library Board of Trustees this afternoon approved a new code of conduct that includes the addition of a so-called “Green/Safe Zone,” a broad swath covering the library’s structures and parking lot where no one will be allowed to linger outside of regular library hours.
The zone–which unintentionally borrows its name from the similarly-identified Green Zone delineating the American and multinational force’s fortress in Baghdad–is intended to keep the more than three dozen homeless people who have encamped on county land southwest of the library from using the building’s covered areas or its parking lot as gathering, sleeping or rest places, and to give library staff tougher tools with which to police their grounds.
“It doesn’t prevent the homeless from living on the undeveloped portion of the library, it doesn’t prevent them from using the library when we’re open,” Library Director Holly Albanese said. The zone is also not directed just at the homeless, but at anyone who may be misusing the grounds outside of regular hours, though that misuse has been rare or did not cause harm. People previously parked by the building to use the library’s WiFi, until the library started shutting it down after closing time. In 2014, an 18-year-old woman initially faced a first-degree felony charge after she was caught having sex with a 15-year-old boy in a van parked in the parking lot around 3 a.m. (The charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor, and finally dropped when the woman completed a deferred-prosecution agreement.)
The Green Zone is modeled after something similar in Sarasota, at Gulf Gate Public Library. It is part of nearly two dozen prohibitions, most of them already on the books, a few of them added or tweaked, that the board unanimously approved today. The County Commission is expected to ratify the rules at its April 1 meeting. Rules include such prohibitions as “Blocking access to the building, including doorways, walkways, ramps, or parking access,” “Inappropriate displays of public affection,” “Being under the influence of any controlled substance or intoxicating liquor or beverage,” and “Unreasonable use of rest rooms, including laundering, bathing, shaving etc.,” all of which are either identical or similar to rules already in previous codes.
But some of the new rules are either more toughly worded than they used to be or or new additions entirely, like the Green Zone. The gentle “Sleeping other than the occasional study induced nap” is giving way to an outright prohibition on “Sleeping within the building or outside areas including entrances, exits and sidewalks.” “Bullying, fighting, physical and/or verbal abuse, harassment or threatening behavior to children, patrons and/or staff” has been replaced by a more expansive, less-defined prohibition on “Use of insulting or fighting words, which by their very utterance tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
And the requirement to “wear shirts and shoes at all times while in the library” has been replaced by a requirement to “to wear clothing and shoes at all times while in the library,” which ended up being the most contentious rewording at today’s trustees meeting. Alan Peterson, the former county commissioner and a member of the library board, known to be a stickler with dollars and words, objected to what he saw as vaguer wording. He had the same objection to a prohibition on “Activities or behaviors which are likely to result in injury or harm to others,” which replaced the more specific prohibition on “Roller skating, bicycling, skateboarding and/or other similar devices.”
“Who’s going to determine unsafe activities?” Peterson asked. “Why are we making it more general as opposed to specific?”
“Because there’s just too many” types of activities to single out, Albanese said. For example, there’s no hoverboard-specific regulation, though hoverboards are becoming popular both as entertainment, nuisances or dangerous devices. Peterson called the less-specific prose “weasel words. I mean, I think it’s going to cause problems if you make things too general,”
Jim Ulsamer, the board’s chairman, had to put a stop to the back and forth and urge the board to move on. Another board member was curious about the vagueness of the prohibition on weapons: the code prohibits “possessing weapons except those authorized by law.” What did that mean, the trustee asked. “Firearms: if they have a concealed weapons license they can carry a gun in the library, and they have,” Albanese said. Numerous local governments had previously banned weapons in public buildings, including libraries. State legislators invalidated the ordinances: In Florida, you may not nap in a library. But you may bring a .357 Magnum.
Albanese, in an interview, said that the code gives staff more control in policing the library. While most staffers don;t enforce the code–Albanese said they are intimidated–the county’s promise of a security guard for the library should make enforcement more effective. Added security was supposed to start today. It did not. On Friday afternoon and Saturday, the library had off-duty sheriff’s deputies as security, at $40 an hour, paid for by Commissioner Joe Mullins (through the Friends of the Library). The county was supposed to pick up the security responsibility today. Albanese said it appeared that Bike Week made that difficult, as the county’s security company did not have the personnel necessary to send to the library. But she expects security to be in place soon.
The new code of conduct was vetted by Assistant County Attorney Sean Moylan, Albanese told the board.
As the board was meeting, the county issued a press release that stated a homeless man and a homeless woman were trespassed from the library Saturday after the woman allegedly threatened a library custodian for the second time in two days.
Cleaning up of the acreage around the library was also supposed to start today. It did not, for the most part, as the homeless proved uncooperative, or refused to move their tents to facilitate the clean-up, Albanese said.
“The situation with the homeless people has gotten a lot of attention in the press and amongst county administration, elected officials, it’s a serious matter,” Ulsamer said, opening this afternoon’s monthly meeting of the trustees. “The operation of the library, the morale of the employees and the safety of both employees and patrons to the library is potentially an issue, so later on we do have some rules and code of conduct policy which, while not directed–we do this all the time, we approve rules of conduct and policy–but it does talk a little bit to how we need to protect the library and patrons, and allow the use of this building in a way that taxpayers deserve.”
Click to access 2019-facility-rules-code-of-conduct-policy.docx.pdf
Concerned Citizen says
We are sending the wrong message to those who break the law.
Homeless or not you don’t break the law. If you do you go to jail. Stop placating these people and clean up the library.
1.) We don’t need an armed securty guard. Nor do we need to pay extra for off duty Deputies. The library is a County owned and ran assett. Please treat it as such and if security is needed put an On Duty Deputy at regular pay there.
2.) Stop catering to the homeless. if they come in and deficate or urinate anywhere but the bathroom then have them arrested. If you do it a time or two then word gets out and I bet it eventually stops. Same goes for narcotics use. No reasons for needles to be found on library property.
3.) Stop creating zones. Again this placates people and sends a mixed message. The library is a county facility. You use it accordingly and within regular hours. You abide by established rules or you leave. If that pisses people off then oh well.
4.) Draw up new rules and regulations to address your current situation that you have let get out of control. Enforce them fairly and do your job as director. If you’re afraid again get a real cop. If you can’t clean up the library then maybe the county needs a new director.
It’s time to clean up the library and make it usable again.
And finally it’s interesting that no one jumped all over reporting an 18 year old woman having sex with a 15 year old boy. What double standards we have. I guarentee that if this had been the opposite way around someone would be in prison.
I will not allow my children nor will my grandchildren be allowed in this library until there is a complete weapons ban including licensed to carry . No exceptions no guns allowed where my children come to learn. What absolute insanity.
Does anyone really think that people will be aware of the “green zone” and, even if they are, will obey the rules?
I do agree with Mr Peterson about the clothing. Some idiot could come in wearing no pants but just a shirt & footwear for example. Although I think most of the men that wanted to test the system might come in shirtless, just to see what happens. In regards to dangerous activities in the parking lot , I think specific things like skate boarding, hover boarding, wheelies on their bicycles and things like that should be listed as prohibited on library property. Think about drivers coming into the library parking lot and there are a bunch of kids doing these things in the parking lot and one of them gets accidentally hit, hurt or killed by a driver who was doing nothing wrong. I would think that specific wording should be used just in case there is ever a lawsuit.
I like our library and there are a lot of good programs there and would hate to see bad things happen there and it should feel like a safe place to be for patrons and children.
Over it. Get rid of them already. Make them move
Had enough says
This is what’s wrong with today’s society. Give them the world while we work for it and get the shaft. I’d make more money begging than I do working. I’ve personally seen one of them take out his phone call his mother and tell her he makes $250 a day. Let that sink in!
Denise Calderwood says
To my knowledge the homeless were under the impression that their tents could stay in their spots but that they had to clean up their areas which most of them did on Sunday filling the dumpster three quarters full….the other tents some with messes have been abandoned and no sign of their owners. However sometime Friday night a new elderly couple who were evicted Friday from the home they squatted in moved into the area. This was the problem and they refused to move and that was the scheduled area to be cleaned first. The homeless are being cooperative and the remaining few who are healthy enough have offered to help with clean up.
Tim Apple says
Flagler needs at least one homeless shelter it’s not 1989 anymore palm coast has a much bigger population now and homelessness isn’t just going to go away
Reading this article saddens me, that our society (and your town) have come to this. I remember when a visit to the library was a fun and rewarding experience. Now you, and your children have to try to dodge all of this bullshit. What a shame.
Did this idea come from the “solution dartboard”. What a Joke.
Since when do UNELECTED self appointed “governing bodies” granted the power to impose any new codes or oridinances? What happened to Democracy ?
I can see the lawyers lining up now.
Now with the latest threats to an Employee of the Library and not the first, its time to forcibly remove homeless from site permanently. This will escalate
Well I guess if you break the law long enough it’s ok.
Concerned Parent says
I do not care what color zone these officials make. I am NOT bringing my children anywhere near this library. Not all homeless are bad people, drug addicts, alcoholics, etc,., but most of them are and anyone that wants to challenge me on that can kick rocks, because I work around homeless people everyday. Like I said they are not all bad, but I will not subject my kids to this type of environment. By not fixing the issues the library system is committing a slow suicide. The internet stopped a lot of people from going to the library and the homeless problem is going to kill it completely. I agree that we do need a homeless shelter in Palm Coast, but for most that do not know, they will not except, drugs, alcohol and oh yeah there are rules and most of them will not abide by these rules. Out of ten you might get one or two.
Concerned Citizen says
If anyone is to fault for this situation it’s the library director.
She’s the director of a county facility and a county employee. As such she’s responsible for providing a safe environment for library patrons and her employees. If at any time she or her staff felt threatned by anyone Law Enforcement should have been called. Sounds harsh but command always starts at the top and can be lonely at times.
I understand her desire to emphathize and symphathize with our homeless people. And am not condoning her for that at all. At the end of the day what it resulted in is a dirty and unsafe facility that no one wants to use.
She needs to step up her game and get the county more involved. If not then the county needs to find someone who will.
Outraged Reader says
Concerned Citizen, you initially were on track and then you turned a bit bipolar or something along that line. If you are so on board with arresting anyone who breaks the Code of Conduct it’s not as easy as you seem to think. The only resort is to trespass individuals who violate the Code of Conduct unless it is a witnessed assault or violation. As far as the Library Director not doing her job you are way off base. I know from sources that she reported conditions to old ad.i situation and they put blinders on. I wonder if you attend any of the BOCC meetings or the Library Board of Trustees Meetings? My guess is that you don’t. I also am curious if you even use your public library to be fairly voicing your opinion? Again, my guess is that you do not. I am curious to know if you are associated with any of the staff at the library? Again, probably not, because if you were, or if you were in their shoes, I believe an enlightened individual would have a whole different perspective of what these employees put up with on a daily basis. I am very well aquainted with some of the Library employees and I am in complete shock to hear of what they deal with. Sadly, there were other administrators/commissioners who turned their heads when the director enlightened them of these increasing occurances. My advice to you is to get your ducks in a row before you start replying without having all the facts. From everything I have read about the severity of this situation it is not at all exagerated. As a patron , I have observed many of these altercations among the homeless, have seen needles outside of the building and have been informed that the needles were also found inside the Library. Too many people like you think you have all the answers and want to condescend the wrong people. This is not the Director’s issue nor the employees. This is a dire situation that every elected official in the County and City need to brainstorm on and find reasonable solutions!!!
Born and Raised Here says
I would suggest we Baker Act them, and bus them to Stewart Marchman for mental and physical evaluation. I wouldn’t be surprised that many of them are fighting Drug and Alcohol Abuse, and mental issues. Flagler County has a serious Suicide and Homeless crisis, Do something
Concerned Citizen says
@ Outraged Reader
My my awful judgemental there so let me educate you.
I have been a regular user of the library until it got nasty from the folks wanting to clean up in bathrooms and piss all over stuff that isn’t there’s. I go to meetings but not frequently because I work in an industry that is 24/7. Time is valuable.
I help the homeless when I can to include feeding and clothing them. Trying to make sure they are warm during the winter and will grab a cold water during the summer. Anything to help besides giving money. I stopped that practice after I saw one run to the Circle K and by a 40oz beer.
Outraged Reader I help maintain several commercial properties in the area that feel the aftermath of the homeless that are disrespectful. Picking up trash that is mostly beer bottles cans and needles. Bleaching and pressure washing sidewalks under store awnings to remove their feces. After they were told to leave while charging their devices and using someone elese wifi. This costs small busniess owners money or they occur fines from Code Enforcement. How is that fair? Not all busniess owners are well to do and then struggle with added cleaning costs.
I maintain that the Library is a County asset and is run by a county director. She should have asked for help when things started getting out of hand. Using the bathroom in public and using illegal narcotics are violations of the law. If you call the SO several times word will get out. Don’t pee between the book shelfs or you go to jail. If you threaten staff you go to jail.
I am not unmindful of what the homeless are going thru. You either act civil or Law Enforcemt intervenes. Stop handing out free passes. If you or I acted this way we would be locked up quick.