Library plan meets the needs of entire district
After meetings over a four-year period, the library board has developed a proposal for improving library services. Midvalley residents will vote on this proposal on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
Three weeks before the election, a group of midvalley citizens who did not participate in the extensive public planning process nor attend regular board meetings have decided to raise their voices in opposition to the library initiative. Let us examine the issues that have been raised.
Is the proposed plan too big and grandiose?
After careful review of our community and the expected growth rate of the midvalley area, our consultant recommended 20,000 square feet of library space. The guest opinion on this page suggests that 14,000 square feet should be sufficient. This more modest space allocation would meet our immediate needs.
However, any new facilities should have a useful lifetime of 25 to 30 years. The population growth projected for our valley suggests that we would need additional space within 10 years. Do the voters want the library board to come back for more money shortly after we open the new facility?
Is Old Town Basalt a better location than El Jebel?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Residents who live west of the Emma curve believe that El Jebel would be a good location. Residents who live east of the Emma curve favor Old Town Basalt.
Current population demographics for the midvalley indicate that 46 percent of the voters and more than 50 percent of the children live west of the Emma curve.
Population projections for the next 10 years anticipate more rapid population growth in this western sector of the library district. From a planning point of view, library facilities are needed in the El Jebel end of the library district.
The library board has seriously reviewed several sites in Old Town Basalt. The proposal to build the new facility in El Jebel is based on the following considerations:
* Land in Old Town Basalt is more expensive than land in El Jebel. The difference in cost to the taxpayer for an appropriate site ranges from $500,000 to several million.
* A modern library with adequate floor space will provide many more services and programs than the current Lions Park facility. Usage by our patrons should more than double. Parking will become a significant issue. Old Town Basalt already has a significant problem with parking.
Are two facilities more expensive than one?
The library district owns the library in Lions Park. The building sits on land leased from the town of Basalt. The lease extends until 2023.
All proposals for a new facility in Old Town Basalt assume that the existing library will be closed. If the library district abandoned the building and lease, the town of Basalt would acquire the building for free. Despite a recently published suggestion to the contrary, there is nothing here to “sell.”
The library board has proposed to build a new 16,000-square-foot facility in El Jebel for $4.5 million and to expand and remodel the existing library in Lions Park for $600,000.
A new 20,000-square-foot facility in Old Town Basalt is estimated to cost $5.6 million (20,000 times $280 per square foot). These numbers indicate that the two-facility plan is $500,000 less expensive than a single facility that provides the same floor space.
Should the library purchase land or lease land?
Critics have suggested that land should be purchased rather than leased. Leasing land for public buildings is not an unusual arrangement. The fire station in El Jebel is built on leased land. The library in Lions Park is built on leased land.
The choice to purchase or lease is based primarily on financial considerations. The lease proposal by the Crawford family is very attractive. The present value of the 35-year lease (how much one has to put in the bank today to pay the rent for 35 years) is estimated to be approximately $150,000.
There is an option for a 20-year renewal at the same rent with a cost-of-living adjustment. Purchasing land for a library will cost significantly more than this lease arrangement.
What will happen if the Nov. 4 library initiative is defeated?
A dedicated and hard-working staff has valiantly tried to provide adequate services on an extremely stringent budget. Defeating the current initiative will mean further reductions in library services.
Because of Tabor restrictions, the mill levy for the Basalt Regional Library District has dropped from 1.38 mills in 1995 to 0.92 mills in 2003. The building in Lions Park is aging. This year we had to move money from the book budget to repair leaking plumbing and rusted gutters.
Every time we purchase a new book we have to remove another book from the shelf to make room. There is no space in the library to work at a table or to sit down in a comfortable chair to read.
Limited to the current funding, the library board will need to choose between two unattractive alternatives next year: no new books or close the library for an additional day a week.
Will the library plan mean more automobile trips for valley residents?
Actually, the amount of driving should be reduced. With two locations, the distance to the nearest location will be the same or less than it was before. In addition, having a facility in El Jebel will permit many residents easily to visit the library in conjunction with their regular trips to City Market.
Historically, the public library has been the great equalizer in America. The library opens its door to everyone, young or old, rich or poor, every ethnicity. A good library gives every child a chance to acquire knowledge and to grow strong intellectually.
Let us be a community that invests in our children. Vote for our children and our community. Love your library! Vote yes on 4B and 4C.
Laura W. Anderson is board chair of the Basalt Regional Library District.
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