The price tag for a new downtown library is beginning to hit some city commissioners like a ton of books.
Mayor Mike Amyx at Tuesday evening's meeting said he thought the City Commission ought to focus on figuring out how to expand the library on its current site rather than spending a lot of time on proposals that would move the library to another downtown location.
Amyx said he was now favoring the current site because of price concerns.
"I think this is really coming down to an affordability issue," Amyx said.
His fellow commissioners stopped short of saying they would focus solely on the existing site at 707 Vt., but two other commissioners - Mike Rundle and David Schauner - did reveal that they were particularly interested in the current site.
Developers are expected to submit proposals for library board members to review at a 4:30 p.m. meeting Friday. Costs for the proposals aren't yet known, but some estimates have placed the construction costs at $30 million to $40 million, plus additional annual costs to operate a larger library.
After library board members review the proposals, city commissioners expect to see a report on the various options for a downtown library this month. City Manager David Corliss told commissioners he has insisted the report include an option that details what can be accomplished for $30 million, even though library staff members have expressed concerns that would not build a library large enough to meet the community's long-term needs.
At $30 million, Corliss said he still thinks that would allow the existing library to almost double in size to just more than 80,000 square feet. Corliss conceded that still may place the library below industry standards in some areas.
"They are operating way below the minimum standards today, but we are still providing library service," Corliss said. "One of the discussions the commission needs to have is how important are those standards."
Amyx said he was favoring the current site because the city already owns the property, which should help reduce the costs of the project. Amyx also has said he thinks any proposal should be put to the voters on the April ballot. That proposal didn't draw much discussion Tuesday night.
When developers submit proposals this week, it will be the second time they have done so. Developers earlier this year submitted proposals based on guidelines provided by the city. Those guidelines called for a library of about 130,000 square feet. Most of those projects came in near $50 million, which commissioners determined to be too expensive. Commissioners then asked for a second set of scaled-back proposals.
Some commissioners said they now want to reach a decision on the project relatively quickly.
"We have left some people hanging who are interested in the process," Commissioner Sue Hack said. "We need to make some decisions on it sooner rather than later."