Design work for Pitkin County Library expansion moving forward |

Design work for Pitkin County Library expansion moving forward

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Courtesy Pitkin County LibraryDesign work to expand the Pitkin County Library in Aspen is moving forward.

ASPEN – The next phase of architectural work for the proposed expansion of the Pitkin County Library – a $519,384 expenditure – won the go-ahead from county commissioners Tuesday, though there has been no commitment to actually construct the project.

“Which chicken comes before what eggs?” asked Commissioner Rob Ittner. The county could spend a great deal of money on the project before it decides to move forward, if it moves forward at all, he noted.

The timing of the library project is complicated by the city of Aspen’s plans to repair the adjacent Rio Grande Parking Garage roof. The roof the garage forms Galena Plaza, onto which the library expansion would extend. Structural supports for the library addition would ideally be built into the garage when the city undertakes the roof project, explained Librarian Kathy Chandler.

“We can’t put the supports in without knowing what they’re going to support,” she said. The next phase of design work will determine what the expansion entails structurally.

The city would like to include the structural work needed for the library expansion into its garage plans, said John Laatsch, project manager with the city’s Capital Asset Department. If the supports are added later, it could be at a cost the county finds unacceptable, he warned.

The next phase of design work will include an estimate of what the structural supports will cost, and the library has enough money in an endowment fund to pay for that work when the city project goes forward, Chandler said. She, however, would like to see library construction occur in conjunction with the roof project.

“I just feel it makes more sense for the taxpayer to make this happen at the same time,” she said.

“The project doesn’t go anywhere at all without approval of the next phase of the design,” pointed out Commissioner Rachel Richards, supporting the expenditure.

The city doesn’t yet know whether it will take a ballot question to its voters for the garage project, Laatsch said, and the county isn’t yet sure if or when it will go to voters for funding of the library project.

If both projects are the subject of November ballot questions, but only one is approved, that would further complicate the matter, noted Commissioner George Newman.

The library is looking at an expansion of about 9,400 square feet, plus a significant remodeling of its existing interior space.

The project, to make the library more functional and enticing, includes bringing the children’s area up from the basement to the ground floor, putting the nonfiction collection on the basement level, adding study rooms and creating a meeting room that can be accessed for public use even when the library is closed.

The total estimated cost, including design and engineering fees, is $10.1 million. If the library district uses its $5.3 million endowment fund toward the project, and borrows $5 million, the estimated cost to district taxpayers would be $8.44 per $1 million in property value (assuming a 30-year debt at a 6 percent interest rate), Chandler said.

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