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Archive for Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Downtown merchants group supports library expansion, still mulling $18 million cost

Ryann Newkirk, 3, chooses from a selection of books she has pulled from the shelves as she, her mother, Nealy Newkirk, and 8-month-old brother Nicholas visit the children’s room of the Lawrence Public Library on Tuesday. Library officials have requested that the city put a library expansion project on the November ballot. Among the areas included within the expansion and renovation plans are the children’s room, the computer area and public meeting rooms.

Ryann Newkirk, 3, chooses from a selection of books she has pulled from the shelves as she, her mother, Nealy Newkirk, and 8-month-old brother Nicholas visit the children’s room of the Lawrence Public Library on Tuesday. Library officials have requested that the city put a library expansion project on the November ballot. Among the areas included within the expansion and renovation plans are the children’s room, the computer area and public meeting rooms.

April 7, 2010

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Deciding to support an expansion of the Lawrence Public Library in downtown was easy for a host of downtown merchants Wednesday morning.

Deciding whether they could live with the 2-mill property tax increase that likely would accompany the $18 million expansion will take more time.

“It is tough because those property taxes probably would get passed along to us in our rents,” said Rod Smith, owner of White Chocolate, 933 Mass. “But if the alternative is more sales tax, I know we can’t tax our customers to death. It is a real double-edged sword.”

The library expansion was the keynote topic at the semi-annual meeting of Downtown Lawrence Inc. Wednesday morning at the Eldridge Hotel. The merchants group plans to have more formal discussions about whether to endorse the project, if city commissioners agree to put a library bond issue on the November ballot.

“Higher property taxes often get passed along to the independent stores, and they probably are the least likely to be able to withstand those increases,” said Jane Pennington, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. “But I know that that there is a very strong belief that an expanded library could be great for downtown.”

A few new details emerged on the library’s proposal. Library Director Bruce Flanders said the library board this week will interview architects to develop preliminary plans for the project. Flanders also said the library will deliver a report to the City Commission by June 1, with hopes the commission will make a decision this summer to place the expansion on the November ballot.

Flanders said it is possible the pricetag of the proposal may shrink. Current plans call for about $15 million to expand the library and about $3 million to upgrade parking.

“It seems a little high to me,” Flanders said. “The $18 million is definitely a not-to-exceed figure.”

As previously reported, Flanders said the expansion would focus on adding computer space, meeting space and children room space to the library at Seventh and Vermont streets, while also improving the energy efficiency of the entire 38-year-old building.

At $18 million, Flanders has estimated the project would require a 2-mill property tax increase. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 worth of assessed valuation, or in other words, $11.50 per year in property taxes for every $100,000 worth of residential property a person owns.

Comments

gatekeeper 4 years, 5 months ago

If the downtown merchants want to expand the library, they can pay for it. Most of us have no use anymore for the library because everything available there is available online. I can read books and magazines online and have movies sent to my tv in seconds. I haven't stepped foot in that library for over a decade and I'm supposed to pay more in property taxes to expand it. The economy sucks and that's when the city wants to do stupid things like expand the library. Once all the roads are fixed and the city isn't in the red, then they can talk about expanding the library. I'd like to remodel my house, but my budget doesn't allow it. The city needs to live like we do, only funding what they can afford. I already pay for the schools and don't have kids, now I have to pay to expand another thing I don't need.

How about this library and city of Lawrence - do some fund raising to come up with the money you need if you want to expand your no-longer needed library. If the people of Lawrence want it expanded as much as you do, then they'll dish out the money for it. Making all of us pay for something only a part of the community uses is ridiculous.

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booyalab 4 years, 5 months ago

How on earth can something that costs $18 million even fit on the property? Are they building it out of gold bullion with personal restroom attendants to help the library staff wipe? Oh and hey, I am using a library computer right now to post this comment but I don't support ANY tax increase to fund an expansion. EVER.

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parrothead8 4 years, 5 months ago

“It is tough because those property taxes probably would get passed along to us in our rents,” said Rod Smith, owner of White Chocolate, 933 Mass. “But if the alternative is more sales tax, I know we can’t tax our customers to death."

Ummm, guess what, Rod? Your customers pay property taxes as well. Supporting this project passes along the cost to your customers either way. What the downtown merchants SHOULD support is something that wouldn't take even more money out of their customer's pockets...like a privately-funded library. Certainly some big-money Lawrencian or KU Alum would love to see his/her name on a building, right?

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Bladerunner 4 years, 5 months ago

Its like having a small child. How many times do you have to say.....NO!

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d_prowess 4 years, 5 months ago

I am glad to read the three reasons the library wants the extra space, but I still hope that they have some numbers to back up their desires. How much extra meetings space do they need and why? Is there really no other places that these groups can meet in? Are they consistently turning children away from the library because they don't have space? How many computers do they feel they need and who are the people using them?
I feel that this article has done a decent job at laying out why the library wants space, but so far I still haven't read anything that explains if those wants are justified by the needs of the city.

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geekyhost 4 years, 5 months ago

I don't know about the computers, but yes, the meeting space is needed. Right now they have two rooms, and those are high demand. If the rec centers wanted to stop charging rent for all the non-profits and small clubs that use the library space, I'm sure the demand would go down for those meeting rooms.

The kid space is OK, but it gets cramped when they have readings and activities, and the kid computers are often all in use.

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BigPrune 4 years, 5 months ago

If a group of developers can build a 7 story apartment building for $9.5 Million, why does the Library need $18 Million?

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Liberty275 4 years, 5 months ago

The concept of public libraries is woefully outdated and should shrink to only caretakers of local records (which should be scanned and put online). Their is no need for them to provide computers to bums. Books and CDs can be bought from many merchants, both new and used. Add in the internet, and I think you'll find everything covered. An internet-ready laptop with wireless can be had for $100 used and freenet will give you free access if you are too poor for Sunflower.

If you still aren't happy, go to any of the KU libraries.

No more money for public libraries.

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geekyhost 4 years, 5 months ago

"If you still aren't happy, go to any of the KU libraries. No more money for public libraries"

A) You must be a student or faculty member to use the KU library B) It's still a public library (ie tax supported, not private money.)

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Liberty275 4 years, 5 months ago

You should have gotten your corvette before the kids.

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somedude20 4 years, 5 months ago

I use a jockstrap for support this seems more like a prostate exame.
The gatekeeper is right saying that the net has access to many many books and I would bet that you can access more books online than the libary could ever hold, so to me, this seems like investing millons in old technology

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Thinking_Out_Loud 4 years, 5 months ago

The Public Library is a shared resource that provides for the enrichment and enhancement of the lives of the local community. (Refusal of specific individuals within that community to avail themselves of said resource does not invalidate the importance of its contribution to the community as a whole.)

A 2009 Harris poll provides some interesting insight: http://0-www.ala.org.sapl.sat.lib.tx.us/ala/newspresscenter/mediapresscenter/presskits/2009stateofamericaslibraries/2009statepubliclibs.cfm An interesting paragraph, specifically: "Almost all the survey respondents (92 percent) said they view their local library as an important education resource. Seven of 10 agreed that their local library is a pillar of the community (72 percent), a community center (71 percent), a family destination (70 percent), and a cultural center (69 percent). Based on everything they either know or might have heard or read, three of five respondents (59 percent) were extremely or very satisfied with their public library. The satisfaction rate was even higher among those who have a library card."

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jayhawklawrence 4 years, 5 months ago

So the downtown merchants think anything that might (emphasis on might) add a few hundred to the sidewalk traffic and a few bucks into their stores is worth increasing the property tax for the entire city of Lawrence.

And we wonder how this country got so far into debt.

Maybe the bad news is that all those smart people we used to rely on to make smart decisions for us are not very smart after all.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

We do not need to raise taxes. Let's instead use a 1995 sales tax cookie jar source.

Citizens should instead demand that the $60 million PLAY project be put on the back burners until our library is tended. YES taxpayers can demand we pull tax dollars from the 1995 sales tax cookie jar to rehab our city library. This money is not necessarily "dedicated" to the park department. This is far better than a new sales or property tax.

Citizens indicated they did want the PLAY project yet our governing bodies found several ways to get around what the public did NOT want:

Taxpayers DID NOT want to spend $20 million on the PLAY project: http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

Instead it will likely be a $60 million tax dollar project in which TAXPAYERS were eliminated from the process. Not only that it has been hidden from the taxpaying citizens by going through USD 497 and OUR park department. The new field house will certainly cost $18 million and more. Lawrence,Kansas does NOT need a new field house.

Our laissez faire reckless spending city government did not make the most fiscal prudent decision and ignored the citizens.

Yet this same government hesitates to rehab our existing library for $18 million saying we cannot afford it. Our library is not one of their special interest money projects.

YES it is time Lawrence,Kansas moved into a true representative city government system represented by way of a taxpaying citizen approval system. YES let the taxpayers decide how OUR tax dollars are spent!!

Taxpayers are fiscally responsible voters that would likely spend money maintaining existing resources instead of voting to increase our taxes most every week at city commission meetings. The new field will require more new dollars in operational expenses = a very expensive project.

Let's rehab the library instead of ignoring what enough people want!

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