Public will get last word on the location of the Basalt Library | AspenTimes.com
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Public will get last word on the location of the Basalt Library

The Basalt Library Board was strongly urged last night to crack the books again in its search for a new library site.

Officials floated plans to buy property between the Southside subdivision and Basalt High School for a new 20,000-square-foot facility, but were immediately asked to reconsider by the Town Council and a handful of citizens.

Lynn Nicols, a member of the library’s site selection committee, said she favored keeping the facility in the town core rather than moving it to the outskirts. Nichols, a midvalley native, said it’s important that Basalt keep its identity by keeping important public facilities near the center of town.

“Look around the United States and see what happens when you move community out to the suburbs,” she said.

Town Council members lobbied the library board to stay put in Lion’s Park, a parcel shared by the library and the Town Hall.

“It’s too bad the two most important buildings are on the same site and the parcel is too small,” said Councilman Leroy Duroux. If only one could stay on the land just west of the commercial core, it should be the library, he said.

“You leave – there goes another chunk of vitality,” said Councilwoman Tracy Bennett.

Councilman Jon Fox-Rubin suggested the town government should start looking for sites where it could relocate, providing the library with free space for expansion.

Library officials stressed the need for quick action. “We are fast running out of space in our building,” said director Jean Winkler.

The tentative plan had been to approach voters of the district – which stretches from Old Snowmass onto Missouri Heights – for bonding of up to $4 million in November 2001 to acquire property and build a new structure.

The existing library is 3,384 square feet. It was built in Lion’s Park in 1984 and expanded in 1990.

The council unanimously concurred that the library should remain in the core, but it was nothing more than a straw poll. However, the town government has some leverage on the decision. The preferred site would have to be annexed into the town.

While that preferred site was rejected cordially, it was nevertheless rejected thoroughly. Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt scrambled to soothe any hurt feelings.

“If you’re not getting the message, we’ll bend over backwards to keep you in the core,” Whitsitt said.

Library board members first seemed aghast that site selection work that kicked off in November was so soundly rejected. They left with no official position, but Winkler agreed to follow up with town officials.

Former Basalt Mayor Larry Gottlieb stressed the need to invite the public to participate in the process. He advised the district to enlist public opinion well before going to voters for financing.

Current Mayor Rick Stevens also cautioned the library officials from settling on a site without first seeking extensive public input.

“If you’re going to go to the voters to issue a bond to finance this, you better make sure the public supports this site,” he said.


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