Two libraries would serve entire Basalt district | AspenTimes.com
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Two libraries would serve entire Basalt district

Four years of planning, arguing, mind changing, finger pointing, celebrating (and everything in between), and residents of the midvalley are still deeply divided over the Basalt library issue.

The fact that there is a Basalt library question on the ballot this Nov. 4 is, in itself, an amazing accomplishment. When the board set out four years ago to find a way to improve the cramped and crumbling Basalt library, everyone figured a new facility would have been built by now.

However, residents of the library district are only this year going to the polls to vote on the issue, and there’s no certainty that the current proposals will pass.

Basalt and the midvalley need a new library, and they need one now. But this issue is much more complicated than that. Opponents and proponents each have strong arguments, which is why this is proving a difficult issue for the midvalley to decide.

The plan on the ballot calls for a significant increase in property taxes to build a new 16,000-square-foot library in El Jebel, next to El Jebowl, and to refurbish the existing downtown Basalt library, expanding it from 3,400 square feet to approximately 4,000 square feet.

The only other option is the newly acquired Levinson property along the river near old town Basalt. The city is willing to sell a plot for a reasonable price. However, the cost of building a library large enough to meet the community’s growing needs is estimated to be $500,000 more than the proposal before the voters. We also believe it is too large a facility for that piece of property and poses parking problems in a town where parking is already an issue. A larger library there would inevitably lead to more traffic coming into old town Basalt.

That’s why we support the current proposal: fix the old library, and build a new one on land that the Crawford family is willing to lease for 35 years for less than $10,000 per year, with an option to renew the lease for another 20 years.

It’s the plan that simply makes the most sense. Build the main facility in the area where the biggest population growth is taking place, and make the current library something better, something that school students and the “walking population” of old town Basalt can continue to use.

To the people who argue that the proposal is too big and too expensive, we must respectfully disagree. The people of the Basalt Library District deserve a top-notch facility, and the current library simply does not meet their needs.

Voters must look to the future, and realize they owe their children and later generations a facility of which they can be proud. Libraries are centers of learning, not simply cramped collections of books. That must be kept in mind on Election Day.

Vote yes on Questions 4C and 4B in Basalt.


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