Archive for Thursday, March 25, 2004

Library continues push for new facility

March 25, 2004

An approved Basehor Community Library bond issue would mean the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $89.58 in taxes per year, or $7.46 per month. That's a heck of a bargain for the number of materials residents would have access to, said Janice Garcia, president of the Basehor Community Library Board of Trustees.

"You can't buy a book for $7.46 a month and (with an approved bond issue) you get access to $50,000 books," Garcia said during a bond issue public forum Sunday afternoon at United Methodist Church.

In three weeks, on April 6, voters within the library district, encompassing approximately 50 square miles, will decide whether to approve higher taxes to fund a $3.79 million library on 158th Street.

On Sunday, a handful of people attended the public forum to discuss the proposal. Library officials covered topics such as design of the proposed new facility, total project cost, location of the new library and their need for a new facility.

For 20 years, the library has operated with only slight renovations to its current building located in downtown Basehor. With luck, the same will be true of a new facility on 158th Street, Garcia said.

"We would like to do that for the next 20 years," the board president said.

Public opposition to the bond issue has been light thus far and was again on Sunday. What little opposition made public has revolved around location for the proposed new facility.

Garcia defended the proposed site on 158th Street. The site fills the library's needs in several areas including its proximity to major thoroughfare U.S. Highway 24/40 and steady-traffic roads such as 155th and 158th Streets.

Also, the three-acre site on 158th Street is free, donated to the library in April of 2002 by Basehor residents Ray and Anne Breuer.

"Quite honestly we were willing to buy land in that location," Garcia said.

"Not only are we getting the land for free, we're getting the land in area we wanted anyway."

The site also sits in an area near the geographic center of the library district, which serves Basehor and outlying areas. The city's population is approximately 2,500 people; Garcia said twice that number lives in library district areas outside the city limits.

An approved bond issue would fund a 21,000 square foot library. The facility would house children, young adult, and adult reading sections as well as space for computers.

The library averages 589 visits per week, officials said, a total that annually grows higher.

Architect David Dunfield said the building was designed to "really be flexible about future needs."

According to estimates, an approved bond issue would increase the library district's mill levy by 7.79 mills; the current mill levy is 3.23 mills. The bond issue would be repaid over the next 10 years.

Garcia said the library board and officials considered all facets of the bond issue carefully before pursuing the issue. However, with the free land and interest rates near record-low levels, the board felt the timing was right for a new library, she said.

"We know it's a lot of money," Garcia said. "We don't want to seem like we're doing anything unreasonable."

"Every time we discussed this the board tried to take a conservative approach."

If approved, the bonds would be repaid through tax levies in the library district, with annual payments of approximately $480,000 per year. The bonds would mature in 2014.

Library bond counsel Dottie Riley said the tax increases for an approved bond issue are worst case scenarios and assume no growth in Basehor over the duration of the debt.

"The figures that are given are assuming no other houses are built and no other commercial comes in," she said. "That assumption is very unlikely."

On Sunday, library officials also sought to defuse speculation that more simple options are available for expansion.

Some people have asked the library if they could remain in the same building downtown and expand to a newly vacant building next door. The building used to house Doc and Bruties Pizza; the restaurant closed its doors to customers earlier this month.

"It is not really a viable option," Garcia said.

"We don't own either of the buildings and both lack for a lot of things. That building wasn't done with the intent of being a library."

The public forum Sunday was another step library officials have taken in recent weeks to promote the bond issue. This month, officials have met with various civic groups and the Basehor City Council.

Garcia said its too early to tell whether the proposal will pass during the election next month; however, she and other library supporters are optimistic good news is on the horizon.

"A wonderful April 6 is what we're hoping for," she said.

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