Archive for Friday, June 25, 2010

Library expansion plan gaining momentum

A proposed expansion to the Lawrence Public library includes a renovated entrance on Vermont Street, shown in this artist’s rendering.

A proposed expansion to the Lawrence Public library includes a renovated entrance on Vermont Street, shown in this artist’s rendering.

June 25, 2010


Library expansion may end up on Nov. 2 ballot

City commissioners are going to take public comment on the expansion at their July 6 meeting. Enlarge video

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.


Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

City Commissioners,

YES for the library!!!

Wisdom says maintain and improve existing infrastructure. The library is an important feature to any community.The indoor pool is due to be paid off soon. The library would be a wise expenditure and an excellent choice for existing sales tax dollars.

It is a mystery to me why taxpayers must vote for a library expansion and rehab? Apparently our Chamber of Commerce does not support public libraries.

Taxpayers have not been given the opportunity to vote on other projects.


20 million dollar usd 497 big buck athletic fiasco( big government pork barrel project and when will the spending stop) This is known as PLAY which no one was informed USD 497 was going to use USD 497 funding.

Clinton Lake Regional Park( How many millions and when will it stop)

Baur Farms = a terrible economic decision

The high tax dollar bedroom community

The 88 million dollar sewage treatment plant = big government pork barrel project

31st street extension = pork barrel

Taxpayers had to vote in a sales tax for street repair. Why? One would assume our city government would accept responsibility for existing resources instead of ignoring existing resources.

Too add insult to injury OUR city government still finds millions upon millions upon millions to bail out private business,bail out a brand new 600,0000 sq ft building in east hills that sat empty nine years AND add more miles of infrastructure which is a tax increase.

remember the neighborhoods with worn out infrastructure have been been paying taxes to maintain the infrastructure for 50 - 150 years. Where is the money? Where did it go?

Will taxpayers be given a chance to vote on the $25-35 million field house in far west Lawrence?

YES for the library!!!

BTW the new look is awesome!!

no_thanks 7 years, 11 months ago

I support a good public library, but I struggle with how an $18MM expansion benefits the community. Will it attract more readers or researchers? Doubtful, as one cannot ignore the trend of how technology is changing the way we read books, publications, etc..., not to mention how we conduct our research. Is it of value to give the farmer's market a bigger area to sell their goods? Surely there is a more cost efficient way to achieve that end. It must be the benefit of allowing property owners to pay more in taxes, despite the fact that the vast majority of property owners do not frequent the library?

Your comments on investment in other public projects, whether good or bad, is frankly irrelevant to this decision as those are sunk costs. There is nothing you can do about those investments. The funding for the library is a new decision whose merit is based on the plan presented. It is not a comparison. One other germane point that you omitted in your analysis, is that the library already receives $3MM/year in tax money for operations. How much is enough?

Finally, what is your point about the impact of the Chamber of Commerce on whether taxes go to a public vote? As far as I know, the Chamber has played no role in driving that decision. Why are you opposed to a proposed mill levy increase that imacts the citizens of Lawrence being decided by the citizens of Lawrence?

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 11 months ago

Is there a faux-progessive tax project that Richard doesn't support?

grapevine 7 years, 11 months ago

So let me get this straight - the City will increase the mill levy to pay for operations? that's like saying "gee, I think I'll take out a loan to pay my gas bill." Not that I'm against the library expansion, but I'm certainly against unsound financial policy.

Michael Bennett 7 years, 11 months ago

What a stupid idea. I like the library, but bad fiscal policy is bad fiscal policy. In the midst of street projects and other infrastructure needs being cut due to the downturn in tax revenue, the City Commission wants to expand a library. Idiotic!!

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 11 months ago

The artist's rendition is accurate in that is shows lots of people walking by the library but nobody actually going in.

And we don't read about the issue of tax increases until the 5th paragraph of this article. Higher taxes is what the expansion plans are all about.

bluedawg79 7 years, 11 months ago

And there is no such thing as the conservative elite? Please.

kansastruthteller 7 years, 11 months ago

From the library webpage:

Get a Library Card Any resident of Northeast Kansas may obtain a library card at no charge.

Residents who do not reside in Lawrence use the library, but do the communities in which these residents reside contribute to the library? Are the people of Lawrence being asked to foot the entire bill even though other non-Lawrence residents can check out books too?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

The indoor pool is due to be paid off soon. The library would be a wise expenditure and an excellent choice for THOSE existing sales tax dollars.

Instead of a new tax increase.

no_thanks 7 years, 11 months ago

I have not researched what other alternatives exist in which the dollars allocated to the indoor pool could be used, but a "tax neutral" decision is seemingly logical. Although, $18MM is still an exceedingly high amount to invest in the library, not to mention their rather generous existing funding.

Keith 7 years, 11 months ago

The indoor pool is due to be paid off soon. Dropping the tax rate would be a wise expenditure for the city.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 11 months ago

Suggesting a use for "existing tax dollars" shows that you really haven't a clue. How about instead of using "existing tax dollars" - an extension of the sales tax - we reduce taxes?

Jeff Cuttell 7 years, 11 months ago

Bad idea. We don't need to waste money on something that will be extinct within 10 years. The computer age is here.... Did you not notice? Maybe they could give us a total number for how many people currently use it on a weekly basis. I think Lawrence would realize what a dumb idea this is in the first place.

nobody1793 7 years, 11 months ago

The drawing makes me think of what people in 1950 must have thought 1970 was going to look like.

gccs14r 7 years, 11 months ago

If the artist's rendering above is accurate, please tell him that it's not 1962 any more. Ick.

Spending money we don't have on things we don't need for people who aren't here is a terrible idea under the best of circumstances, and we're not in the best of circumstances. Fix the schools, fix the streets, fix the drainage problems, and fix our public transportation system before taking on new money-draining projects.

anitliars 7 years, 11 months ago

TOTALLY agree on the look issue. When I saw that rendition I thought "What is today's date?" Why build something that already looks out of date? U.G.L.Y.

BigPrune 7 years, 11 months ago

Anytime some idiotic idea is put forth for a sales tax or mill levy increase, it somehow "overwhelmingly" gets passed. Will the dead voters be speaking from the grave? It's the Chicago way, after all. This $18 MIllion is in the bag.

whynaut 7 years, 11 months ago

It could be that there are more community conscious voters out there than you think. Not all of them spend as much time among the C.A.V.E. people on the ljworld, so I can see how you might not exactly have your finger on the pulse of Lawrence.

Big Prune: Joined: Sept 25 2007 Posts: 2658 Avg: ~ 2.6 posts/day (for almost 3 years, now) Changed Minds: 0

Remain diligent prune. Someone, some day, will listen to you.

whynaut 7 years, 11 months ago

wow, you know, you are right! They really ARE no better than the street bums, are they? I'm sure glad I checked back here to receive this nugget of wisdom.

Thanks lawrenceguy! I'll never think of you as a simpleton again.

BigPrune 7 years, 11 months ago

ps. The awning was evidently an after thought.

gatekeeper 7 years, 11 months ago

Look at it this way folks. A Kindle only costs $189. For $18M the city could buy almost every citizen of Lawrence their own Kindle and eliminate the library completely.

I haven't set foot in that library for over 15 years, but am going to have to pay higher taxes to fund those that do use it.

And if people from other cities and counties can get a library card but don't pay any taxes that fund the library, then we need to charge them a fee. I shouldn't be paying for someone outside Lawrence to have access to the library.

Can't wait until the economy gets better so I can sell my house and get out of this town. Lawrence has totally gone to sh*t since I moved here 20 years ago.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 11 months ago

That's entirely too logical. For less than the cost of each person on the empT, the city could simply hire a cab to shuttle that person to and from a location. No matter, like the T, this isn't a matter of logic, it's a matter of arguing emotion. A new library, like the empty bus system, is a good thing simply because it exists.

volunteer 7 years, 11 months ago

Too darned much money. This is a Resession. Vote No and just ask management to clean the carpets. Otherwise you will see a pie in the sky Library trying to match Topeka's monstrosity with coffee shop and two librarians chatting with one another at each "help" desk and scowling if they have to get up out of their seats to assist a patron.

Then the library board will decide to cut the new acquisitions budget in half so that the employees in this fine new library have wages that meet the national average of 58 grand plus benefits. They are taking a page out of Topeka's playbook by asking for way too much money for should be a simple, small expansion job if anything.

Boog Highberger 7 years, 11 months ago

SettingtheRecordStraight– If you are going to use an arrogant name like that, you should at least get your facts straight. In a 2007 survey, 75% of city residents reported using the library within the past 12 months. Library usage has risen significantly since the time of the survey.

grapevine– No, using the mill levy to pay for library operations is not like saying "gee, I think I'll take out a loan to pay my gas bill." It’s like using the current year’s revenue to pay the current year’s expenses. The current library operating budget is, and to the best of my knowledge, always has been funded by a dedicated property tax mill levy. Borrowing money for operations and then paying that off with a mill levy would be a bad idea, but that is not what is being proposed

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 11 months ago

Regardless of library usage levels, the city does not need a new library. Certain, select members of our community have made expanding our current library their latest pet project to be funded with other people's money. We were subjected to such foolhardiness as recently as 2008 when the city put three sales tax hikes on the ballot. The state's outlandish 18.87% hike in the sales tax rate earlier this year only adds insult to injury.

Additionally, regardless of whether the city borrows the money or funds the unnecessary expansion with a mill increase, a 2 mill spike represents $200 for every $100,000 in property owned. Don't forget to multiply that by 20 years. Such a jump in taxes represents an immoral - yes, immoral - maneuver designed to fund the wish list of the special interest groups. All during a recession. No.

d_prowess 7 years, 11 months ago

The picture makes it look like an airline terminal.

lgreen17 7 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps they could fix our streets first. I pay way too much in taxes right now and have to drive around pot holes in my neighborhood.

(Don't get me started on the $33 a month in sewer fees we pay when there are no sewers in NL and our street floods because the culverts haven't been cleaned out in 30 years.)

lgreen17 7 years, 11 months ago

If this will raise taxes $200 a year, landlords, like me, will raise rental rates. Not good for people who rent in this town.

CHANDLER007 7 years, 11 months ago

Looking forward to voting against the expansion! What a ridiculous waste of money...

gatekeeper 7 years, 11 months ago

So we should have to pay for those of you that won't go buy a book or read on online? I love reading, but don't expect others to pay for me to read.

jd 7 years, 11 months ago

I thought the homeless shelter was going to be in east Lawrence?

kansastruthteller 7 years, 11 months ago

The artist should have added a homeless person or two to their drawing to make it more realistic :)

walkthehawk 7 years, 11 months ago

I, too am glad we get to vote, and I will certainly support a library overhaul at the ballot box. Like many moms of young kiddos, I use the library regularly and and cannot imagine if it weren't here...there is nothing like it (and as for the Kindle comment--how does one raise a reader--a person who will someday see the value of Kindle and similar technology--if there's nowhere to first get interested in reading?) Further, it's unfortunate that the venues and services for young families seem to be the first targets in times of shortage (the baby pool in South Park, Prairie Park Nature Center, open gym at the Rec Center have all been mentioned as cuts in the last two years) while we continue to make investments in failed businesses and in tax incentives to big box development.

A strong library is an anchor for a city and the neighborhood in which it is placed, bringing foot traffic, evening and weekend events, and in many cases increased tourism for their communities. Small and medium-sized cities (from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Belfast, Maine) as well as larger communities (Kansas City's new flagship museum, Phoenix and Salt Lake City's award-winning facilities) have discovered this--let's get with the program, Lawrence. Support the library, support downtown, support families, support our community. That's what makes this a great place to live, and draws families, like my own, to choose to live here and become part of the tax base.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 11 months ago

This act of irresponsibility is why I feel like an orphan politically.

Republicans would never support this spending unless it put money in their pockets.

The Democrats (extremely liberal) think money grows on trees in our back yards, so we can always afford another tax raise for a poorly timed and poored conceived expense.

Meanwhile the streets and social services will continue to suffer.

kansastruthteller 7 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps this is petty, but I enjoy the library and will vote for the expansion unless I find out that the library is open to other communities, but only Lawrence residents will have to pay for the expansion.

For me, this is an issue of equity. Why should Lawrence residents have to foot the entire cost of expanding and maintaining the library?

I hope to learn more about this before it is time to vote.

whynaut 7 years, 11 months ago

It would be good to get data on % of users who are Lawrence residents. I imagine the frequency of out-of-towners is negligible.

But suppose it's not, and people come in from out of town to use a newer, state of the art facility. I don't see how that's such a bad thing. They may spend a little money while they are in town. And when has widespread access to library resources ever resulted in the lesser bad (as opposed to the greater good)?

Plus, I'd be rather annoyed if I was visiting a town and really needed to use their public library but had to pay a fee simply because I was a non-resident. I would think: "What a bunch of stingy tightwads these townspeople are."

Which makes me wonder if you have pay to use the library here,

jhwk215 7 years, 11 months ago

I think this sounds pretty cool, it makes me WANT to go to the library

Dog 7 years, 11 months ago

I agree that library usage is not what it use to be. Many people use electronic readers, but I do not believe that the library will every close. There will always be a need for people to access books, audio or videotapes and in the future download books.

What I suggest is spending some of that $18 million to create satellite library locations. This would provide people better access to the library. There are currently enough empty spaces in strip malls around the city that the library could step up locations in all parts of the city. Books could be checked out on the spot or you could request a book be sent to the location near your home for next day pick up.

Another option might be for the school and city to team up and use existing school libraries. This would be a win/win for both organizations. The city could help purchase books and the school could hlep pay some of the library costs.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 11 months ago

Most Americans are still learning how to live with less. We would prefer that government do the same. Government incompetence has caused too much pain in this country.

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