Saturday, November 2, 2002
Tom Hopp is president of the board of directors of the East Routt Library District. He discusses the board's proposal to build a new library in the vicinity of the current library. The plans will be presented to the City Council Tuesday.
Q. The East Routt Library District recently announced plans to build a 24,000-square-foot facility near the current library. What's the motivation for the new building and what are the proposed features of the new library?
A. The Library District Board of Trustees has recognized for some time that the most critical challenge for the library's future is securing an adequate site. The current process is designed to resolve that problem. The preapplication process we are going through is designed to obtain feedback from the Planning Commission and the City Council regarding our ideas for utilization of the site in the future. We know the existing library will not be adequate long term and a larger library will be needed. In fact, adequate space in the existing library is a challenge now. If the preapplication process goes well, we will begin the process of planning for a new building. That would include planning the features of the library. The two things we do expect is for some parking to go under the new building and for the building to have more than one level.
Q. The project is expected to cost between $5 million and $10 million. What are the options for financing the project?
A. Those figures are probably reasonable, but they are only a ballpark guess at this point. We believe that a new library should be designed to accommodate an additional expansion in the future. We have estimated that a first phase would need to be about 24,000 square feet. Whatever the costs, they would have to be funded through a district bond issue.
Of course the voters in the district would have to approve such a bond issue. As you might imagine, a lot of work would have to be done before the library Board of Trustees would present such a proposal. Community feedback would be a critical part of the process.
Q. Why not expand the current library if more space is needed?
A. That was our first thought as well. Expansion of the existing library would be ideal if only it was the most feasible approach. The most significant drawback to the idea is the unique architecture of the building.
We have determined that the most we could practically expand the existing building is about 5,000 square feet. Our concern is that such an expansion would only serve the needs of the library for a short period of time. At that point, the district would be faced with the same problem. Considering the lack of available land, we would like to take a long-term approach now and consider how the site might best serve the community for many years to come.
Q. What will happen to the current library building if this plan is approved?
A. The current approach for the new library is to build it where the community center is now. It is envisioned that existing uses in the community center could go to the existing library building. The additional remaining space in the building might be used for various other community-shared purposes. We have heard many ideas. I believe a process will be created to determine what would best suit the interests and needs of the community.
Q. At one point, the library board discussed acquiring the school administration building and old junior high on Seventh Street as a possible new library site. What happened to that plan?
A. When reviewing all the possibilities for a new library, it was originally determined the Seventh Street site was the most ideal. The community feedback we received supported that as well. The challenges were difficult to practically overcome, however, both for the library district and the school district. The school board was actually very supportive. Ultimately, the simple answer is that the school site involved a great deal more expense and a serious challenge to relocate the current site users. In the meantime, several City Council members approached the library board and offered an expanded approach to utilizing the existing site of the library and community center. The current process is part of evaluating that concept.
Q. What is the timetable for this project, assuming it is approved?
A. A timetable has only been discussed in general terms but would logically be the next step in the process. Keep in mind that the preapplication process is not an approval process, but a process of developing consensus. There would need to be formal approvals, just as any developer would go through. When we would propose this plan to the district voters would be determined through a community process of discovery. At this moment, developing a consensus for utilization of the site is far more important than when we actually build a library. The best time to build is when the community recognizes the need and would like a larger library facility. I think we can demonstrate the need, but both parts are necessary. We would love to have feedback from the community.