Voters reject Pitkin County Library expansion
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County voters rejected a $10 million expansion of the county library at the polls Tuesday and library officials say they’ll abide by the electorate’s wishes.
Two ballot questions associated with the proposal both failed by wide margins.
Ballot issue 5A asked voters to increase property tax support for the library to raise $141,000 annually for ongoing costs associated with the expansion. Preliminary results tallied Tuesday indicate the measure lost by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent, or 4,943 to 2,905 votes.
Issue 5B asked voters to authorize $5.4 million in borrowing, to be repaid through property taxes over a period of up to 25 years, to fund the expansion project and an extensive remodeling of the existing building. It failed by a margin of about 64 to 36 percent, or a vote of 4,986 to 2,831.
“I think it was a pretty strong message from the electorate,” said library Director Kathy Chandler, calling the results disappointing.
“They don’t want the changes we proposed at this point. It’s important for us to listen to the community,” said Barbara Reid, president of the library board of trustees. “It’s a pretty strong vote. I think you have to take a message from that.”
The proposed expansion would have added 7,198 square feet to the east side of the library, located in downtown Aspen, allowing additional meeting space, study rooms, a new children’s library and an extensive renovation of the existing building.
While the library has about a $5 million endowment fund that was to be devoted to the project, both Chandler and Reid expressed doubt that the envisioned modernization could take place within the library’s existing walls using solely those funds. That option was studied early on, Reid noted.
“We may just leave things pretty much the way they are,” Chandler said.
Leaving the library as it is will suit some voters just fine.
“I was against it. I think our library is great the way it is,” said one voter exiting the polls Tuesday. He asked not to be identified.
“I think the library is just fine the way it is. Maybe in five or 10 years we can make it better,” said another local resident, objecting to the debt and tax implications right now. “I just don’t think we need to be spending millions of dollars on what is already a beautiful library. It can wait a few years.”
Allison Daily, emerging from the polls, said she voted “yes” on the library questions. “I use the library and I believe in what it does,” she said. “I just have a huge respect for libraries.”
“Why not? It’s a good fit for the community,” said another supporter who voted in favor of questions 5A and 5B.
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A recent economic impact study on the arts and culture industry in Pitkin County shows that it brought over $450 million to the community in jobs and spending in 2019. What does that mean for the post-pandemic world?