Archive for Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Council votes to support Baldwin City Public Library expansion

Baldwin City Hall

Baldwin City Hall

October 3, 2012

The Baldwin City Council unanimously approved on Monday a nonbinding resolution supporting the expansion of Baldwin City Library.

The library expansion issue resurfaced last month when Friends of the Library representatives attended a council meeting requesting support of a scaled-back $500,000 expansion of the library. It would be the first phase of a three-phase expansion and adds space for children’s activities, storage and an improved community meeting room.

That group’s latest request reduced by $250,000 to $350,000 a proposed library expansion the Baldwin City Library Board presented in December 2010.

The September discussion ended with Mayor Ken Wagner proposing the council vote on the nonbinding resolution and that council members communicate their support or opposition to City Administrator Chris Lowe in the two weeks before Monday’s meeting.

Despite the nonbinding wording of Monday’s resolution, the council appears ready to move forward with the project.

In fact, momentum has already started. Lowe said once a majority of council members communicated their support, he met in the last two weeks with library personnel and Friends of the Library about the library’s needs. He also alerted Springsted Inc., the city’s financial consultant, that its help could soon be needed in placing bonds for the project.

The council’s support was encouraging to Susan Butell and Anne Walker, co-chairwomen of the Friends of the Library Expansion Committee. Butell said Monday she would like the council to follow up on its voiced commitment with action that would get the project started before any new council members take office in May 2013.

“We’d like to do it while you are still a sitting council,” Butell said. “We’ve been before so many councils. This is further than we’ve ever got.”

Lowe said the next step would be to develop a design that incorporates the library’s needs and the city council’s wish that a meeting room, which could be used for council meetings, be included in the project.

The mayor and the council members again restated the need for a multipurpose meeting room. Wagner said an upgrade from the American Legion Hall was needed for municipal court and council meetings. The acoustics of the hall make it difficult for those in the audience to hear and the technology wasn’t available to share computer-generated presentations with the council or those in attendance, he said.

The resolution’s language didn’t have a dollar figure. Instead, it “supports every effort, in conjunction with the Baldwin City Public Library, to develop, design and fund a library expansion” to increase public access to technology, provide more space to meet the needs of residents and visitors and make available a community meeting place.

Councilman Shane Starkey said the advantage of the resolution’s language was flexibility. It would allow the council to consider adding more money to the expansion if, once designs are completed, the estimate exceeded $500,000.

The language in the 2009 referendum that enabled the city’s quarter-cent sales tax listed the library as one of the uses of revenue generated from the sales tax. Wagner said in the September meeting the bond’s retirement should be prolonged enough to ensure revenue from the quarter-cent sales tax would meet annual debt obligations without help from the general fund.

With approval of the resolution, the next step will be for the city to work with the library to get agreement on what is needed in the expansion so that the bids can be sought for a design of the library’s expansion.

“We’ll continue working together to see if we can move this thing forward,” Wagner said.

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