Cash-strapped library gets $1 million transfer from Pitkin County |

Cash-strapped library gets $1 million transfer from Pitkin County

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
The expanded and remodeled Pitkin County Library is on track to open in January.
Courtesy photo |

Pitkin County Library will use $1 million from the county’s general fund, as the total cost of the facility’s expansion and remodeling project has reached an estimated $14.3 million.

Pitkin County commissioners agreed Tuesday to transfer the money to the library, which Librarian Kathy Chandler said she expects to be paid back within two years — $500,000 in 2016 and $500,000 in 2017. The money would come from pledged donations and library revenue, she said.

“This is a unique project for us in a lot of ways,” County Manager Jon Peacock told commissioners. “It’s been relying on a lot of fundraising, and the library has been working on a vision of raising funds through public or private sources.”

The county’s general fund, which is used for general services such as the Sheriff’s Office and Community Development Department, will have a balance of approximately $5 million at the end of 2015.

Commissioners said it’s vital that the loan is paid off — if not within two years, then five years at the most.

“We need to have a back-up plan of Plan B or C on how the general fund gets repaid,” Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “There’s no ability for the general fund to make a contribution that’s lasting.”

The library has $13.3 million for construction costs; those funds come from the library’s capital reserve balance and money it has saved to build affordable housing in the future.

The library’s remodel and expansion began in February. At the time, the price of renovating the existing building had not been determined.

While the $14.3 million total is an estimate, Chandler said the library plans to stick to that figure.

“We don’t have final cost estimates, but we’re drawing a line in the sand and saying this is what we have to do,” she told commissioners, adding the library had not hoped to “spend every last red penny we have” to complete the project.

The entire project calls for a new children’s area, flexible group-study areas, an expanded teen area and a new commons area, along with a one-story addition of 5,108 square feet and another 2,200 square feet on the mezzanine level. In the meantime, a makeshift library is open at the old Aspen Art Museum. The library is expected to re-open at its old location, at 120 N. Mill St., by the end of January.

With the county’s interest-free transfer of the cash, the library would “further reduce the project scope by eliminating lower priority work,” according to the library’s supplemental budget request to the county. “Total completion will be delayed for several years while the library rebuilds reserves and then initiates a new construction project.”