Basalt library board to try again in 2004 |

Basalt library board to try again in 2004

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Two months after voters soundly rejected a proposal for a new midvalley library, the Basalt Regional Library District’s board of directors has decided to try again in 2004.

The board voted 6-0 last night to “work toward” placing questions on the ballot seeking a property tax increase for a new library and more money to operate it.

And this time board members will apparently have the support of an influential group that opposed their proposal last November.

The library district had two questions on the November 2003 ballot. One sought funding for a new 16,000-square-foot facility in El Jebel and an addition to the existing library in Basalt. Another question sought funding to operate the two facilities. A group called Citizens for One Library opposed both questions.

The library board and leaders of the citizens’ group met last night and closed a chapter on their fight. Leaders of the citizens’ group pledged their support to try to craft a question that voters would be more likely to support.

Several speakers from both the citizens’ group and the library board stressed the need to patch their differences and come up with a proposal in the next few months that could win voter support in the sprawling, diverse library district. The last proposal was plagued by opposition from Basaltines over the location of a new library in El Jebel.

“If it does not matter who gets the credit, you’ll have a library in two years,” predicted library director Linda Levy. But if the two groups spar over who gets credit for good ideas and lets hard feelings linger from the last campaign, the next proposal could also fail, she warned.

Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi told the audience he was impressed that the two groups seemed philosophically aligned. Passage of a ballot question by voters should be certain if the two groups remain united while hammering out details.

“That’s where people start pulling knives on one another,” he said.

Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland strongly urged the library board to seek approval of tax increases in 2004. He said that tax hikes seem to fail in odd numbered years, for a variety of reasons he said he would share with anyone who cared after the meeting.

Although it will take a lot of planning in the next six or so months, Ireland said it would be worthwhile to get the question on this year’s ballot.

“Have your election in 2004,” he said. “Don’t screw around with this odd-numbered stuff.”

Basalt resident Gerry Terwilliger replied, “We’re doomed.” Citizen committees don’t work fast, he said.

In this case, he didn’t think the library board and interested citizens could come up with a popular proposal in time to get a question placed on this year’s ballot. Although the election is in November, a ballot question needs to be certified by September.

Ireland responded that committees tend to use whatever time they’re given. He was confident a committee could reach consensus in time for a library ballot question.

After meeting with their former foes, library board members decided they should proceed on the assumption they will ask a question in November. If no progress is made by May and June, they could always decide to cancel the election this year, they agreed.

Board president Laura Anderson noted that the big issue facing the district is where to build a new library. The district stretches from Old Snowmass to the Garfield-Eagle county line. It includes El Jebel, Basalt, the Fryingpan Valley and some of Missouri Heights.

The library district has struggled to come up with a plan that satisfies residents from such a wide geographic area. But with the help of their former foes, they now think they have a chance.

“By waiting we could slow down the momentum,” said library board member Valerie Welch.

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