A November election to decide the future of the Lawrence Public Library is looking more likely.
A shorthanded City Commission on Thursday afternoon was generally receptive to an $18 million proposal to expand the library at its current location at Seventh and Vermont streets.
Commissioners as early as July 6 could vote to put the multimillion-dollar plan on the Nov. 2 ballot for voters to decide. At least one commissioner who previously expressed concern about moving forward on the plan said he’s now ready to let the people decide the issue.
“I still have concerns about whether it is the right time, but I think they have put together a proposal that is reasonable,” Commissioner Lance Johnson said. “I’m more comfortable letting the voters make the decision now.”
At the heart of the decision will be taxes. Library leaders are estimating the city’s mill levy will need to increase by 1.5 mills for 20 years to pay for the construction of the project. They also are recommending another 0.5 mills be added to fund operations of a larger library.
At least four of the five commissioners must agree to put the issue on the November ballot before it can move forward. Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Aron Cromwell both indicated support to move forward, but Commissioners Rob Chestnut and Mike Dever were unable to attend the Thursday afternoon study session.
As the library previously announced last week, under the $18 million plan:
• The library would grow to about 66,500 square feet, and all areas would be upgraded.
• 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 — larger than originally envisioned — would be built on a portion of the current parking lot. The garage would have 250 spaces, up from 125 today. 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.
• The reconfigured library would have room for 100 additional public access computers.
Johnson said revisions to the plans that allowed for more parking to the area appealed to him, as well as additional outdoor space in a plaza-like area that would be along Vermont Street. Library leaders said they have had preliminary discussions with the Lawrence Farmers’ Market about using the space on a regular basis.
“What I like particularly is how they have thought outside the library and looked for ways to accommodate other uses in the community,” Johnson said.