Now available on the new-arrivals shelf of the Lawrence Public Library: An election.
City commissioners Tuesday unanimously agreed to place on the Nov. 2 ballot an $18 million plan to expand the library at 707 Vt.
“What it comes down to, in my mind, is great communities provide great amenities,” City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said.
The proposal would require a 1.5 mill increase in the city’s property tax rate for 20 years to construct the building and another 0.5 mill increase to operate the larger library. Commissioners acknowledged some may not believe now is the right time to ask voters to approve a tax increase, but they said cramped conditions at the 39-year-old library required action.
“We’re in challenging times, but sometimes you have to step aside and look forward,” Commissioner Lance Johnson said.
Among the specific features included in the proposed expansion are:
• The library would grow by 20,000 square feet to about 66,500 square feet, and all areas would be upgraded. The existing library would be extended about 30 feet closer to Vermont Street. New space also would stretch south down Vermont into parts of the existing parking lot.
• The children’s area of the library would double in size, and would include a separate space for young adults.
• A three-level parking garage would be built on a portion of the current parking lot. The garage would have 250 spaces, up from 125 currently. Parking would account for about $4.3 million of the project’s costs.
• Meeting space in the library would double, and would be arranged to allow for up to nine separate meeting rooms and six reading rooms.
• A drive-through book drop-off and service window would be added to the west side of the library.
• The reconfigured library would have room for 100 additional public access computers.
No one from the public spoke against the proposal Tuesday night. But commissioners did receive a proposal to use the city’s proceeds from the countywide 1-cent sales tax to fund the project rather than raising property taxes.
Commissioners did not spend much time with that idea, saying voters viewed that sales tax as being set aside for parks and recreation types of projects.
Library leaders said they’ll now begin campaigning for approval of the library proposal. A separate campaign group has been formed and has a steering committee of 92 people, co-chair Alice Ann Johnston said.
“We have just kept hearing that the library has been a center for our community to come together, and we want to have enough room in the future to do that,” Johnston said.