Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2006

Library proposes $2.99 million bond issue

Special election scheduled for Feb. 28 to decide on constructing new building on 158th Street

January 5, 2006

Next month, Basehor Community Library officials will ask patrons of its 50-square mile voting district to greenlight approval for something they deem long overdue -- a new building.

Library officials announced late last week that they will place a $2.99 million bond issue before voters in a special election scheduled for Feb. 28. The funds would pay for a new library on 158th Street, inside Prairie Gardens subdivision.

"The solution to our problems is a new building," library director Carla Kaiser said. "We believe we have addressed the concerns in our survey responses and that this is the right thing to do."

Polling places for next month's vote are: Holy Angels Catholic Church, Fairmount Township Fire Department and Glenwood Ridge Elementary School.

This is the second bond issue proposed by the library in two years. A $3.79 million bond issue was defeated in April 2004.

Library officials carefully crafted the current proposal by taking into account public feedback gleaned from surveys of patrons in late 2004, Kaiser said. The payback for a successful bond issue is well worth the cost, she added.

"We'll have a building that will address all the space needs we have," Kaiser said. "It will allow us to have more books, materials and services for every age group. It will allow us to get up to standards and provide much more that we can at our present location."

The problem

On her desk, Kaiser has a list of failings of the current library building, which due to growing expectations from patrons and an ever-widening district, has become ill suited for operations. At the top of the list are: a "severe" lack of space and the overall "poor" condition of the building.

"We don't have enough books and materials that residents want due to our lack of space," she said. "We have books stuck on the top of shelves, no quiet study area and six chairs around one table.

"During the winter months, we depend on a single gas garage heater and multiple space heaters. There's one area in the back, where the restroom is located, with no heat at all."

Other trappings of the building include electrical wires hanging loose and exposed from the ceiling, wood rot, lack of parking and water leaks, which has resulted in an on-going mold problem.

"And there are other problems, but those are our main concerns," Kaiser said.

The dysfunction of the library building has become "more and more unacceptable" and presents "a concern for the health of our staff and patrons," she added.

The library does not own the building it's currently located in. Kaiser said the building's owner has been diligent in working with the library to make repairs. However, to accommodate the library's needs, a major overhaul is necessary.

"It would take a total renovation to fix the problems that we have here," she said.

The proposal

There are some major differences between next month's bond issue and the question that voters rejected in 2004, most notably in square footage and cost. The current proposal has been trimmed in both categories.

The building size has been reduced from 21,000 square feet to approximately 13,400 square feet. The cost has also been tightened by $800,000.

The adjustments in building size, total cost and tax burden to patrons were made based on responses from the surveys.

Library officials also explored the possibility of at least one option addressed by survey respondents for expansion. That option included locating to a space just south of the current library, a space that once housed a pizza and barbecue restaurant.

Architectural consultants determined the site would lock the library into a small space with no room for expansion and would not alleviate parking problems. The architects also determined that fusing the two spaces was impractical.

The current library building entails approximately 4,000 square feet of space and has been used for operations since it the library was founded in 1985.

"We really use about 3,500 of that because some of it is unheated and we can't use it," Kaiser said.

Next month's proposal has the unanimous support of the Basehor Library board, which voted in December to propose the question.

"We must get out of this building," Kaiser said. "We know that needs to happen. One way or another, we are going to have get out of here."

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