Grant gives library plans a boost

$300,000 contingent on voter approval of bond issue in November

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— The South Routt Library District received the next best thing to voter approval for its $1.5 million project to build a modern library in Oak Creek.

Last week, the district was awarded a $300,000 grant from the Colorado Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Advisory Committee to help pay the construction costs of the new library.

"This grant is contingent on voter approval," said Dina Murray, project coordinator for the new Oak Creek Library.

That means if voters decide they want to build the new library by passing a bond issue and mill levy increase in the November election, the project will cost them $300,000 less.

If either voters say no, the project is off and the $300,000 will not be awarded.

Murray has applied for two other grants, each for $50,000, to help with construction costs. One was to the Boetcher Foundation and other was to the Bacon Family Foundation, both in Denver.

The district won't find out if it will receive that money until after the November vote, but essentially it could be another $100,000 off the cost of the project, Murray said.

Monday, the library district went before the Routt County Commission to ask that the bond question get on the ballot.

Since the grant was awarded to the district, the commissioners tabled the issue until the district could get a better idea of amount of money it will asking voters to approve.

Initially, the district estimated that an average south Routt property owner with a $100,000 house would pay $22.78 annually for 20 years for the bond issue.

The district wants a mill levy increase to fund $50,800 a year in library operations. That would increase taxes on a $100,000 house by $7.55 a year. The mill levy is not be affected by grant money.

Last month in Cripple Creek, the grant committee heard presentations from 40 organizations seeking financial assistance for similar project from all around Colorado.

Overall, $11.5 million was asked for but $7.5 million is available, so the committee had to make some decisions on who would get full funding.

The South Routt Library District received the full $300,000 it requested.

The effort to build a new library in Oak Creek is an attempt by the district to modernize the service in south Routt.

Right now, the libraries in Oak Creek and Yampa use a dated card filing system and have minimum Internet access.

"We want to take a step above that and be a full service library," Murray said. "Certainly technology is going to make that a lot easier."

The final blueprints for the library show a 5,800-square-foot building on Sharp and Oak streets. Included in the building plan is a large area for books, with places to read, a public meeting room and an outdoor plaza.

Along with a new building, the catalog system will be computerized, which could be integrated with the Soroco School District's libraries, Murray said.

Library officials think these upgrades are necessary, and point at statistics of library use to back them up.

Last year more than 10,000 visitors checked out more than 12,000 books, videos, audio tapes and periodicals in south Routt libraries. Also 1,565 people attended library programs.

Murray also pointed out that a new library is supported by the language of the Town of Oak Creek's 1996 Comprehensive Plan related to achieving goals in educational opportunities, improving the downtown district, trails and landscaping enhancements and sidewalk improvements.

If the mill levy increase and bond issue is passed in November, construction on the building would begin as soon as possible.

"I would assume that we would break ground in the spring," Murray said. "Certainly by the end of that year I would think it would be done."

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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