Basalt library to seek OK for $11m facility | AspenTimes.com

Basalt library to seek OK for $11m facility

Two years after getting drubbed at the polls, the Basalt Regional Library District will return to voters to seek approval for a new facility that proponents labeled “the right plan” at “the right place.”The district will seek voter approval for $10.9 million to acquire the land and build a 20,000-square-foot facility in Basalt, the board of directors announced Thursday night.The district drastically overhauled its plan from 2004. Then, it proposed building in El Jebel on land leased from the Crawford family. Now, it is proposing to buy land next to the Basalt Post Office, within walking distance of downtown Basalt.By choosing the Basalt site, officials hope to eliminate much of the opposition that surfaced in 2004, according to Peter Frey, a member of the library district’s board of directors. Foes of the old plan said the library needed to remain in the district’s hub in Basalt, close to the schools.If voters approve the plan, proceeds from a bond issue would fund the purchase of the land and construction of the building. The bonds would be repaid over a period of 20 years by a property tax increase.Voters will be asked in a separate question to approve a permanent property tax increase for the library’s operating funds.Soaring construction costsThe cost of the project jumped significantly from the $5.5 million sought in 2004 because the new plan requires buying the land and because construction prices are soaring, according to Frey and library proponent Valerie Welch.The selected site is currently owned by the town of Basalt. The government has agreed to sell it for $2 million, which was established via appraisals.The library district would get $725,000 in credit for returning its current facility back to the town. The library district has a multiyear lease with the town for the current library.Construction of the new facility will cost just under $7.8 million and outfitting the structure will add $1.8 million, according to the district’s estimates.The campaign will try to get voters to focus on the relatively small price per household in increased taxes rather than the $10.9 million total cost. A bond consultant for the library board said property taxes would rise about $18.33 annually per $100,000 of assessed valuation on a residence. In other words, a house with a tax value of $600,000 would pay an additional $110 per year in property taxes.The property tax for operating expenses would raise taxes $4.33 annually per $100,000 of assessed value. A house with a tax valuation of $600,000 would pay $26 per year in extra property taxes for the library’s operating costs.Times are a changin’A group called Friends of the Library will head the campaign for the library because state law prohibits the district from using taxpayer funds to promote a position in elections.The campaign theme is “Right Plan, Right Place, Right Now,” said Frey. Proponents will focus on the inability of the current library to meet demands. The currently library was built in 1984 when the district had a population of 3,000.The population is about 10,000 now and will hit 17,000 by the year 2016 at current growth rates, according to Frey. Library district officials said the library is inadequate in virtually every way: Too few books, videos and CDs as well as inadequate seating areas and children’s facilities.The 20,000-square-foot proposal was determined through a couple of methods, Welch said. It is a size guideline for resort-area libraries issued by the American Library Association. More important, she said, it is the size library district officials arrived at after meeting with neighborhood groups and library users to discuss needs.The library district held numerous neighborhood meetings in 2004 to get a sense of what the public wanted in a new facility, she said.About two-thirds of the 20,000-square-foot proposal would be on the first floor of the building, with the remainder on the second floor. Some highlights of the proposed facility include 3,500 square feet for a children’s and teens’ area that would be staffed; 2,100 square feet for a public reading area, periodicals and lounge; and 6,670 for shelving books, videos and music with accompanying seating.Detailed plans for the library and the campaign will be posted this week at the library’s web site, http://www.basaltrld.org.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com