Basalt Regional Library District Referenda 4A & 4B: Supporters claim new plan is the ‘right’ one | AspenTimes.com

Basalt Regional Library District Referenda 4A & 4B: Supporters claim new plan is the ‘right’ one

Librarian Kris Elice shelves children's books after story hour at the Basalt Library. If voters approve the library district's requested tax increase, a new, larger library will offer patrons of all ages a greater selection of books and services. (Jordan Curet/Aspen Times Weekly)

Basalt Library District officials are approaching voters for the second time in three years on Nov. 7 with a request to fund a new facility.This time, library proponents claim they’ve got it right. In fact, their campaign slogan is the “right plan, right place, right now.”The district is seeking $11 million to buy a site near downtown Basalt from the town government and to construct a 20,000-square-foot facility. The site is a vacant lot between the Basalt post office and the skateboard park.Three years ago the district wanted to build a new library in El Jebel and maintain a satellite in Basalt at the existing facility. The proposal was shot down by voters by an overwhelming margin. Critics said the proposal was inefficient; they wanted just one library to be built, and for it to remain in Basalt. (No organized opposition has surfaced for the current proposal.)Instead of folding after the demoralizing defeat, a core group of library officials took the advice to heart and negotiated the potential purchase of the new site from the town for $2,040,000. The Library District would get credit for $725,000 for giving the current facility, which it leases, back to the town.The remainder of the $11 million price would be used to construct and outfit the new facility.A bond would be issued to raise the funds. A 20-year property tax increase would pay off the bonds.

The cost to residents of the Basalt Regional Library District would be about $18.33 per $100,000 of assess value for a residence. So, owners of a house with an assessed value of $600,000 would pay an additional $110 per year in property taxes for the land acquisition and construction of the new library, according to figures from the district. The tax would be in effect for 20 years.A separate ballot question seeks voter approval for a permanent property tax hike to raise more operating funds for the Library District; a bigger facility would be more costly to run and require a larger staff.The property tax for operating expenses would raise taxes $4.33 annually per $100,000 of assessed value or $26 per year for a house with an assessed value of $600,000, according to the district.The questions are 4A and 4B, respectively, on both the Pitkin and Eagle county ballots.A large swath of the midvalley is eligible to vote on the question. The Library District stretches from Old Snowmass to the Eagle-Garfield county line near Blue Lake. The sprawling district is centered in Basalt and El Jebel but includes parts of Missouri Heights and Frying Pan Valley.

Supporters of the library plan contend a new facility is overdue. The current library, at Basalt’s Lions Park, was built in 1984. It offers about 3,845 square feet for a district population that has swelled to 10,000, significantly more than the facility was designed to serve. The Library District’s population is projected to grow to about 17,000 in another decade.It’s not just the population that has grown. The library is also busier, according to Polly Pollard, chairwoman of the Basalt Regional Library District’s board of trustees. The circulation, or the number of materials checked out, is up 21 percent for 2006 through September compared to the same period in 2005.”We’re doing the best we can with our limited staff and limited facility,” Pollard said.While some patrons might like the cozy, quaint facility, library officials contend they could offer the community so much more with the right facility. Britton Lund, executive director of the library, said the children’s programs are so popular that they have outgrown available space indoors. They are offered outdoors during the summer “under the tree to the west of the building.” That’s when weather permits.Adult programs, which can be anything from a travel slide show to a presentation by an author, must be held after regular library hours to ensure there is enough space. There is one modest-sized meeting room that is often spoken for within the library.

Lund has no problem producing a long list of ways she believes the current facility is inadequate. She is excited about what the library could offer in a 20,000-square-foot building. Right now there are eight computers available to the public for surfing the Internet and two for tapping specialized electronic databases. The new facility would offer space for 24 computers for surfing and 12 for the databases. The new computers would be phased in.The library currently has 32,000 items in its collection – everything from books to DVDs and audio CDs. There is no room to expand the collection.”Every time we put a book on the shelf another one comes off,” said Pollard.Lund said the plan is to increase the collection to about 60,000 at the new library, and taking it in exciting directions. There would be more magazines for kids and teens, for example, and an adult music collection. The new facility would provide space for future expansion of up to as much as 90,000 items.The new facility would also have adequate parking – 68 dedicated spots, including spaces for patrons just popping in and out. “We currently have people driving around the block and around the block only to leave because they can’t find parking,” Lund said.If voters approve the new facility, construction would likely start in early spring 2007. The building would open in fall 2008.The proposal to increase operating expenses would help hire more staff. The library currently employs two full-time workers and six part-timers. All told, the staff puts in the hours of nearly six full-time equivalents, according to Lund. She estimates the new facility would require 10 full-time equivalents.More information on the new library plan can be found at the district’s website at http://www.basaltrld.org.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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