By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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In the new plan — culled from five potential options and presented by city staff at a public open house Monday night — renovating the library at 1220 Lawrence St. would cost
$4.2 million, with up to $3 million to be requested from voters in a bond issue on the August ballot and the rest the responsibility of the Port Townsend Public Library Foundation.
A possible decision on the plan was deferred to a special meeting Thursday, to begin at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at 540 Water St.
The matter also could be discussed at April 29 and May 6 meetings.
The city is discussing a bond issue of up to $3 million that could appear on the Aug. 6 primary ballot, which would require the measure's completion by May 10.
Mayor David King said three steps are needed to meet the deadline: a pact between the library foundation and the city for financing different aspects of the project; authorization for a ballot resolution; and the writing of the resolution itself.
Four phases of the library renovation are now completed or in progress.
The final phase, which includes the replacement of the current single-level 3,625-square-foot annex, will be funded by donations, grants to the Foundation Capital Campaign and a city bond.
The new option scales down the original idea of a two-story addition to the Carnegie building, which at $7.75 million was determined to cost too much.
The new option would remove an originally planned basement and extend the building's footprint from either side of the Carnegie building, which would be taller than the addition.
“This will provide a unique balance of the library's needed functions and the budget constraints faced by the city,” said library director Theresa Percy at Monday's meeting.
One proposal suggested by council member Mark Welch asks the library to pay a percentage of the debt service out of its operating budget.
Percy opposes this, saying it will “have grave implications on the library budget if this is approved.”
City Manager David Timmons said the debt service on a $3 million bond would be $200,000 per year for 20 years.
This could require the library to pay one-third to half of the debt service, which would be rolled into the current debt service for the last bond of $35,000 a year, adding up to as much as $135,000 of additional requirements for the library.
Timmons said this proposal is a good short-term solution that doesn't substantially hurt the library.
While the renovations have been scaled down, the new option represents a 62 percent increase in space, raising the current 8,290-square-foot library to 13,425 square feet and raising shelving space by 57 percent, from 3,566 linear feet to 5,600 linear feet.
The new addition would stand in place of the one-story addition built in 1990, which would be demolished and replaced, architect Jim Cary said.
“In order to build a second story on the existing addition, the structure would require enhancements that would be more expensive than starting from scratch,” Cary said.
One aspect of the original plan that has been preferred is having a reading room, devoting the top floor of the Carnegie to that use, while the bottom floor would contain the children's library and a public meeting area.
Cary said the most optimistic schedule would be the completion and reopening of the new building in late 2015 — if all the financing is in place.
During the renovations, about 60 percent of the library's collection is accessible at a temporary location at Mountain View Commons, 1919 Blaine St.
Foundation Chair Chelcie Liu told the council that the foundation has about $450,000 on hand but that the additional money could be raised, a process that would become easier if the project was approved and a bond was put on a ballot.
A ballot measure could stipulate that the bonds would not be purchased and the taxes collected until all the money is raised, and that if the foundation fails to raise its portion, the project would be dead and the bonds would not be purchased, Timmons said.
If that occurs or the measure is defeated, the library would move back into the Carnegie structure as it stands today, with no additional improvements scheduled, he added.
If this occurs, the second-floor area, which was used for books and reference, would revert to its original use as a reading room, and much of the collection would be put into storage, library staff has said.
City Councilman Bob Gray said he didn't see the need of the bond being on the August ballot, adding that he felt the matter would benefit from more discussion.
Supporters of the August ballot have favored the timing so as to avoid competing with later expected ballot measures to create a joint city-county metropolitan parks district and to subsidize fire service.
Councilwoman and former Mayor Michelle Sandoval said she didn't think the parks district measure would be ready this year. The fire levy question is expected on the ballot in 2014 at the earliest, according to city staff members.
King believes the council can meet the deadlines for the August ballot and favors that option.
“We have proven that it can be done within our budget, and it's a pretty good expansion,” he said,
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.