Archive for Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Baldwin City Council asked to support scaled-back library expansion

Baldwin City Hall

Baldwin City Hall

September 19, 2012

The Baldwin City Council will vote next month on a nonbinding resolution expressing support for the expansion of the Baldwin City Library.

Mayor Ken Wagner called for placing the resolution on the council’s Oct. 1 agenda at the end of a Monday work session on the library’s expansion.

The library board first approached the council about the need for a library expansion in December 2010. At that time, it was proposed 5,000 square feet be added in a five-year period to the current 6,000-square-foot library at the cost of $750,000 to $875,000.

At Monday’s work session Friends of the Library President Anne Walker and her Friends of the Library Expansion Committee co-chair Susan Butell said the expansion plans had been scaled back. They were now requesting the city bond $500,000 for the first of a three-phase expansion program. The first phase would provide added room for children’s activities, storage and an improved community meeting room.

Walker said the Baldwin City Library Board of Trustees had another $120,000 from its capital fund available for the expansion and the Friends of the Library had about $20,000 available for furnishings.

Butell and Walker proposed the project be bonded and that the city’s quality of life 0.25 percent sales tax pay for the project. She pointed out that the language in the referendum voters approved in 2009 creating the tax specifically mentioned the library and parks as uses for revenue raised from the tax.

“We did a lot of get-out-the-vote and to get it passed, because it would likely be used for the library,” Butell said. “I think a lot of people voted for it because of that.”

They presented no new plans for the expansion, preferring not to spend money on architectural fees until there was a commitment from the council to move forward with the project, Butell said.

Mayor Ken Wagner said he and City Administrator Chris Lowe recently met with the library board. The mayor suggested the library expand to the south. There was room in that direction because the city has moved much of its public works activities to the Orange Street yard and would be moving more, he said.

But Wagner said the first thing that needed to be done was for the council to decide if it supported expansion of the library. He did, Wagner said, citing the council’s goals in its summer visioning retreat to invest in the downtown and attract new residents to the city through first-class amenities, such as libraries.

Wagner urged council members to communicate their support or concerns about the expansion with Lowe before the Oct. 1 meeting.

The only council member to voice support for the expansion Monday was Councilwoman Bonnie Plumberg, who said it did align with the council’s vision for downtown.

Wagner gave council members something else to consider should the they support the project. He requested the library board work with the city to provide a community meeting room that could be used for council meetings. The council quit using the current community room in the library because it provided no privacy for executive sessions, he said.

Wagner said the council appreciated the American Legion for making its post available for meetings but the space lacked many professional amenities, such as a sound system and the ability to have computer-generated presentations.

Any expansion should be financed for 20 years to ensure the 0.25-percent sales tax could meet annual debt obligations without dipping into the general fund, Wagner said.

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