Cost for new library, Basalt upgrades: $5.1 million

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Even with free land and favorable interest rates, it will still cost about $5.1 million to build a new library in El Jebel and remodel the existing one in Basalt, the library district figures.

After nearly four years of debating how to meet the needs of a growing constituency, the Basalt Library District plans to ask voters to approve a bond issuance in November.

The library board agreed on a plan to build a 17,000-square-foot facility in El Jebel on land donated by the Crawford family. That property is located adjacent to the El Jebowl bowling alley.

In addition, the board wants to expand and remodel the 3,400-square-foot library in Basalt’s Lions Park.

At an open house where details were released last week, library district material said the cost of building and outfitting a new facility in El Jebel will cost $4.5 million. Another $600,000 will be needed to expand and remodel the existing library, boosting the total to $5.1 million.

A property with an assessed valuation of $400,000 would pay about $42.82 in increased property taxes to pay off bonds for the construction, according to the district’s calculations.

The operating costs of the district would naturally increase with the expanded facilities. Current salaries and other operational costs for the library are $300,000 per year. It is projected those costs would soar to $1.2 million annually.

For operating expenses, property taxes would increase by $101.35 per year for a house with an assessed valuation of $400,000.

Despite the expense, the library district is touting the savings that would be achieved by building now. “Interest rates are at a 40-year low,” its material said. “Floating a bond issue this year will save approximately $1 million.”

The district also noted it will save in land acquisition costs. The board was negotiating with the town of Basalt to acquire land at the Levinson property, just west of downtown, for a site. The site would have cost about $460,000.

Library district officials were also convinced they would have to spend in excess of $100,000 at the Levinson property to import soils suitable to support construction.

The El Jebel property will be free, and the 1.38-acre site is about three times larger than what was available at Levinson. The library district also said there will be substantial savings in construction costs at the El Jebel site. There is enough land for a one-story facility rather than the two-story design necessary at Levinson. That will help reduce operating expenses.

The library board voted 6-0 earlier this month to proceed with the current proposal. The decision came after negotiations fell apart between the library board and town representatives over acquisition of Levinson property.

One longtime advocate of a new facility in Basalt said she fears the board made that decision for the wrong reasons.

Lynn Nichols said she believes the board may have compromised on site selection for the sake of getting something on the November ballot. She said she wants to know more from both the library district and the town government about why talks fell apart over the Levinson parcel. Nichols said one library, at a centrally located spot like Levinson, would be best for the community.

“This [proposal] isn’t about building community. It’s about getting something on the ballot,” Nichols said. “I don’t think they’re shooting for excellence.”

But library board members were enthusiastically showcasing the plans for the El Jebel library at last week’s open house. It would share a parking lot with the bowling alley, and feature outdoor sitting spaces alongside a creek and boast views of Crown Mountain with Mount Sopris peaking from behind.

Library district officials were frustrated that only a few members of the public attended the meeting to check out the proposal first hand.

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