Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Building dialog, some Q&A

Responding to questions asked by Ed Thomas in the online forums of the Post-Crescent:
Doesn't the Library Board have a clue to what's going on, and what the public apparently feels about their grandiose desires? Didn't they get the message?
The Library Board gets messages from online forums (including the Post-Crescent), from their phone calls and emails, from their friends and neighbors, from our elected officials, from library staff, from usage data, from community surveys, from focus groups, public meetings, and cost studies -- among other sources.
Have they taken a realistic look at the economy and state of employment in the Valley?
I think they are very well-acquainted and realistic, partly because of the impact of the economy on library use, and mostly because they are a connected and aware group of citizens. The first question is what's needed, and the second is how to afford it. I think everybody involved accepts the fact that we should not expect some significant tax increase to pay for this. But the fact is that cities build buildings, and pay for them using their debt service. Any amount added to the debt service for the library would have to be affordable within the constraints of state and local rules -- and Appleton is conservative about debt spending and tax increases. Beyond that, private dollars would be needed.
Why not, when it can be afforded, add to the existing building? Oh, it just doesn't fit our needs and programs. Then restrict your needs, and cut programs.
We’re not talking about the library’s needs for the library. We’re talking about the public’s needs for learning opportunities, for information, for meeting places, for cultural opportunities. We’re talking about family-oriented community learning, which this community seems to want and need more of. We’re talking about how to provide that service in the most cost-effective manner.
Why not add to the existing building?
We've always said that this is a viable option. But the preferred option would be a new building for two reasons: operational cost-savings and the opportunity to make a more positive developmental impact. There would be some savings in remodeling, but those would likely not be a long-term savings as a remodeled and expanded structure would be less efficient
You want a new building?
Not necessarily, but as stated above, it is likely advisable as more upfront investment could result in long-term savings, and have a better impact on the downtown and the whole community.
What do you plan to do with the existing one?
The City would have a couple of options. The present building would be a better City Hall than a library, and would address both space needs and citizen access concerns for the City. If located adjacent, a library and City Hall could more readily share some resources. Contrariwise, they could sell it as office space and return it to the tax rolls.
You need more space?
Library concerns are partly about space, and partly about good design for security and efficiency in providing 21st century services.
There are a lot of vacant store fronts around the City to set up neighborhood centers. Have you even considered that as an option?
You bet! It was my preferred option. I love branch libraries – for the community center, neighborly atmosphere they have. But the cold reality is that they are more expensive. The cost to maintain and sustain additional structures, as well as the cost to duplicate equipment, collections and staff functions, will quickly outweigh any savings in construction cost. A single facility, designed for efficiency will be best.
Obviously they would take private, taxpaying, property over for a new building. That is a hidden addition to our taxes.
Not necessarily nor obviously – it could be done on publicly owned land; there are a couple of options. And if privately owned land is taken off the tax rolls, that cost should be considered; no-one proposes hiding it. But now you’re talking about a site selection process, which we’re saying deserves considered open public debate.
Do you remember the School referendum? It lost.
I've been around awhile. I remember numerous referenda that have lost and numerous that have passed. This isn't a school issue.

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