The pace needs to quicken on the decision of whether Lawrence will build a new library, Mayor Mike Amyx said Friday.
Amyx said he wanted the City Commission to begin thinking about putting the issue on the April ballot.
"A project this size is going to have to receive the blessing of the public," Amyx said. "We may as well know early on whether we're going to get it or not."
Amyx made his comments at the same time that members of the development group proposing to use the former Riverfront Mall as a library site said they were no longer actively pursuing the project.
The four private development groups that originally expressed interest in partnering with the city on a library project have until Wednesday to submit new plans to the city, after city commissioners determined the previous proposals were too expensive.
Dan Simons, who heads the ownership group of the former Riverfront Mall at Sixth and New Hampshire streets, said his group would not resubmit a plan.
"You want to support something that you are passionate about," said Simons, who is part of the management team of The World Company, which owns the Journal-World. "An environmentally friendly library on the river is something we believe in, but it just doesn't seem possible at this time.
"I still think the site is a great opportunity. But Lawrence is - I don't want to say at a crossroads - but there are a lot of issues, whether it is streets or sewer or water treatment projects, and maybe our idea is just not the right time for Lawrence yet."
Simons said he was not sure that the community has reconciled its wants for a new library with the costs of such a project.
"What they want to achieve with what dollar numbers are being tossed around doesn't seem to jibe," Simons said.
Previous proposals by private developers had included $40 million or more in public financing, although some of the public debt was designed to be paid off by taxes generated from new private development surrounding a library.
The Riverfront group had been in discussion with members of the Fritzel family to combine forces with that group on a library project at the Riverfront site. Now that those talks have ended, Bob Schulte, an executive with Gene Fritzel Construction Co., said his group would go back to its previous plans that call for a new library on the site of the current post office at Seventh and Vermont streets.
The post office would be moved to an undetermined downtown location, while some of the post office's distribution center functions might move to the former Tanger Factory Outlet Mall in North Lawrence. A deal with the post office, though, has not been finalized.
Groups led by Lawrence developers Doug Compton and Jeff Shmalberg also are still expected to submit proposals for the city to consider. Compton's plan calls for the library to be at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. Shmalberg's plan would put it at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
Although he isn't submitting a proposal, Simons said he was not ruling out the use of the Riverfront building for the library if the city wanted to initiate the discussion at a future date. He said the building, which sits on city-owned land, is large enough to house a library and additional city office space, if needed.
Amyx said that once the proposals come in next week, he wants the library board to review them and make a strong recommendation to the City Commission. Amyx said commissioners then would need to decide if there were a specific project - including cost estimates and location - that they felt comfortable putting on the ballot.
Whether an April election is the preference of other city commissioners is an open question. City Commissioner David Schauner said much would depend on how quickly the library board could review the proposals. He said an April election may not allow for a significant campaign effort to be formed.
"I think that is a very legitimate concern," said Schauner, who said he thought a decision would need to be made by the end of the year to give the issue a fair chance on the April ballot.