Question No. 1: Library expansion proposal textHere is the library expansion proposal question as it appears on the ballot:
Shall the following be adopted?
Shall charter Ordinance No. 40, entitled 'A CHARTER ORDINANCE EXEMPTING THE CITY OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS FROM THE PROVISIONS OF K.S.A. 12-1736 TO K.S.A. 12-1738 AND PROVIDING SUBSTITUTE AND ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS ON THE SAME SUBJECT RELATING TO PUBLIC BUILDINGS AND FACILITIES AND THE ISSUANCE OF BONDS THEREFOR INCLUDING THE ISSUANCE OF NOT TO EXCEED $18,000,000 OF GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS FOR CONSTRUCTING, FURNISHING AND EQUIPPING OF AN EXPANSION AND RENOVATION OF THE EXISTING LIBRARY AND CONSTRUCTION OF PARKING FACILITIES; AND FURTHER REPEALING CHARTER ORDINANCE 32' take effect pursuant to Article 12, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Kansas?
Two storylines emerged Monday in the campaign for an expansion of the Lawrence Public Library.
In a televised forum leading up to the Nov. 2 election, voters were told about the need for an $18 million expansion of the current library in downtown Lawrence, but also were presented with an alternative idea of creating several smaller library locations in rented space that currently sits vacant.
“There are a lot of empty storefronts in town,” said Jim Mullins, a Lawrence resident and field director for Americans for Prosperity, which is officially opposing the library issue. “Put in the computers, put in the meeting room space. If it doesn’t work, we haven’t wasted a lot of money on bricks and mortar.”
In the forum — sponsored by the Voter Education Coalition — library board chair Mike Machell said the board decided not to move forward with a satellite proposal because it was concerned the existing library was inadequate to serve satellites.
“It certainly is easy to rent some retail space and put some computers in there, but I think what the community is asking for is a more full-service satellite,” Machell said. “And we’re not equipped to do that.”
The library board’s proposal would add 20,000 square feet to the existing library and renovate the existing space. The children’s area and meeting room space would both double in size. A parking garage for 250 cars — up from about 125 the library’s current lot accommodates — would be built on part of the existing parking lot.
But the project would require about a 2 mill property tax increase. Mullins, whose group generally opposes tax increases, said now is a bad time for an increase. But he said his group also believes the project is too downtown-centric, spends too much on parking, and doesn’t consider how libraries will change in the digital age.
“This is not the plan that should be brought to us,” Mullins said. “I think the voters need to turn this down and let the library bring us back a more modest proposal.”
Machell, though, said the library board spent considerable time studying alternatives and said the economy was also factored into the board’s decision.
“I agree we must spend wisely,” Machell said. “But we must remain open to prudent, long-term investments. Construction costs are cheaper than they have been, and the cost of borrowing money has never been lower.
“I think we’re being very responsible stewards.”
The library bond issue will be on the Nov. 2 ballot.