Library district asking taxpayers for money to expand

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After seven years of design and committee meetings, the East Routt Library District is coming before the voters to ask for money.

"We've been working very hard to maximize the use of the existing facility," said Bud Werner Memorial Library director Chris Painter. "We used to have a meeting space, and that became the children's library. We have stretched the facility as much as we could."

For the library to remodel its building and build an expansion to house more books and new services, voters would need to approve two pieces of funding on November's ballot.

The Library District is asking for an $11.4 million bond issue to fund the construction of the expanded library (Referendum 5B). The district also is seeking a mill levy to fund the upkeep and utility bills for the building once it is complete (Referendum 5A).

The bond essentially is a loan paid upfront to the library for construction costs that will be paid back with interest by taxpayers throughout 20 years. Voting "yes" to both referendums would amount to a 2.2 mill levy for taxpayers, or about $12 a year per $100,000 of property value for 20 years to cover the bond issue and $8 a year per $100,000 of property value to cover maintenance costs as long as the library exists.

The mill levy would take effect in 2007.

Voters should read this section of the ballot carefully, as the two questions will be listed in counterintuitive order following a Colorado statute that requires mill levy questions to be listed before debt questions.

The decision to expand the existing library began seven years ago.

"We started looking for a new site to build a larger library because we knew growth was an issue for the library," library board President Tom Hopp said. Initially, the board considered the site of the Steamboat Springs School District offices at Seventh and Oak streets. The group went so far as to enter into discussion with the School Board.

"Then we were approached by City Council and members of city staff with the idea of buying the Lockhart building (which faces Lincoln Avenue and neighbors the library) and expanding on our current site," Hopp said. "They saw the library as an important gateway to the community."

The East Routt Library District purchased the Lock-hart building in 2003 for $500,000 and formed a focus group to steer future use and appearance of the buildings on that site.

The first challenge was the existence of the community center. The center is a gathering place for many nonprofits and clubs and is especially popular with senior citizens. In a July City Council meeting, representatives with the Routt County Council on Aging read a letter announcing the group's support for the library expansion on the condition that "a new, more functional Community Center" was in place before construction began. City Council members went on record at that meeting in support of the Council on Aging's request.

The library district board has agreed to purchase the existing community center building (for demolition) from the city with the intention that the money from the sale will be used for construction of a new community center elsewhere.

The preliminary site for a new Community Center is the Stock Bridge Transit Center, because it is city-owned land accessible by bus service.

If the library expansion proj--ect is approved, the design would be completed by architect Barry Petit of Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd., a Minneapolis firm that specializes in library design. The firm designed the new library in Telluride, which opened in 2000.

The new Bud Werner Mem-orial Library would be a 20,000-square-foot, two-story building that incorporates the current 9,000-square-foot building, built in 1967.

The expansion designs in-clude two facades: one that maximizes the view of the Yampa River and Howelsen Hill and one along Lincoln Avenue that acts as a visual entrance to downtown Steamboat.

Painter thinks the expansion would allow the library to grow with the community for at least 25 years.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210 or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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