Archive for Sunday, October 31, 2010

Have questions about the proposed Lawrence Public Library expansion? Read this before you vote

Recap of top queries about proposal

Scenes from Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., from left: Waverunners Club at the library offers children from ages 7 to 11 to learn about artwork from the Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University; the computer lab area located downstairs at the library contains 50 computers, and patrons are limited to two one-hour sessions per day; Seth Outcalt, of Lawrence, scans some books he was checking out using the library’s express checkout counters in this Journal-World file photo.

Scenes from Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., from left: Waverunners Club at the library offers children from ages 7 to 11 to learn about artwork from the Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University; the computer lab area located downstairs at the library contains 50 computers, and patrons are limited to two one-hour sessions per day; Seth Outcalt, of Lawrence, scans some books he was checking out using the library’s express checkout counters in this Journal-World file photo.

October 31, 2010


Election 2010

Find detailed candidate profiles, campaign finance information and complete election coverage in our Election Guide.

Reader poll
Will you vote for the $18 million library expansion proposal?

or See the results without voting

Question No. 1: Library expansion proposal text
Here is the library expansion proposal question as it appears on the ballot:

Shall the following be adopted?

The big answer will be revealed Tuesday evening.

Lawrence voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to approve an $18 million bond issue to expand the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

In the meantime, here are answers to some smaller questions that have come up during the nearly three-month library campaign.

Q: Can you remind us of what is included in the expansion?

A: Plans call for a 20,000-square-foot expansion. It would include:

• renovation of all spaces in the library;

• a doubling of the children’s library space;

• a doubling of the amount of meeting room space;

• a new parking garage that would be built on a portion of the existing parking lot. The number of parking spaces would grow from 126 to 250.

• 100 additional public computers;

• a drive-through book lane on the west side of the building;

• exterior improvements, including a small plaza area for public events.

Q: How much would this cost me?

A: Voters are being asked to approve $18 million worth of bonds, backed by the full-faith and credit of the city. The bonds would take 20 years to retire. The city currently is estimating the bonds will require an increase of 1.5 mills to the city’s property tax levy. A 0.5 mill is needed to pay for additional operating expenses of a larger library, officials say. A 2 mill increase on a $170,000 home would add $39.10 to the homeowner’s annual property tax bill. Businesses pay property taxes at a higher rate, thus for a $170,000 commercial property, the increase would be $85 per year. But it also should be noted there is uncertainty in the tax implications of this proposal. The city is estimating it will take 1.5 mills to pay for the bonds based on several assumptions. Those include an interest rate of 3.5 percent and growth in the city’s tax base of 1 percent per year. If the interest rate is higher and the tax base grows slower, it will take a higher mill levy. Conversely, if the interest rate is lower and the tax base grows more quickly, it will take a lower mill levy.

Q: When this proposed tax increase is added to mill levy increases already approved by the Lawrence school board and the Douglas County Commission, what is the increase for an average home?

A: In November of this year, property tax bills will include a 2.9 mill increase for Douglas County government and a 2 mill increase for Lawrence public schools. If the library bond is approved, a 1.5 mill increase would show up on tax bills in November 2011. The full two mill increase likely would not show up until November 2012. If all the increases are added together — and assuming the mill levies don’t change in other ways — the total mill levy eventually would increase by 6.9 mills. On a $170,000 home, a 6.9 mill increase would add $134.89 to the homeowner’s annual property tax bill. For a $170,000 business, the increase would be $293.25.

Q: If approved, how big would the library be? How does that compare with other Kansas cities?

A: The Lawrence library would be about 72,000 square feet. Here’s a look at the other nine libraries that serve populations of more than 40,000, according to 2009 statistics from the state library of Kansas:

  1. Johnson County Public Library: 90,547-square-foot main branch, plus 12 satellite branches. Population served: 406,939.
  2. Wichita: 89,000 square feet, plus 8 branches. Population: 366,046
  3. Topeka/Shawnee County: 178,600 square feet. Population: 170,378.
  4. Kansas City, Kan. 40,750 square feet, plus four branches. Population: 135,410
  5. Olathe: 24,000 square feet. Population: 119,993.
  6. Lawrence: 52,000 square feet. Population: 90,520.
  7. Manhattan: 67,847 square feet. Population: 52,284
  8. Salina: 60,000 square feet. Population: 46,483.
  9. Finney County: 20,000 square feet. Population: 40,899.
  10. Hutchinson: 82,000 square feet. Population: 40,889.

Q. Are there more details about the budget for the project?

A: According to information presented to city commissioners, the budget includes: $5.7 million for the new addition; $3.3 million for the existing building renovation; $4.3 million for the parking garage; $600,000 for site improvements; $690,000 for an estimate contingency; $550,000 for a construction contingency; $3.3 million for development costs, furnishings and technology; $165,000 for a project contingency; $395,000 to account for price escalation.

Q: Are there any plans for the library to raise private funds for this project?

A: The Lawrence Public Library Foundation will start a campaign to raise $1 million for furnishings to supplement the $18 million in bond money, Lawrence Public Library Director Bruce Flanders said. (That’s why the budget above adds up to $19 million.)

Q: Why is the library pursuing an expansion of its current building instead of adding branches or satellite locations? How much would satellite locations cost?

A: Library leaders have said many times that they believe the current library needs to be improved in order to feasibly provide service to branch locations. Flanders said he envisions this expansion would be the last for the current library. He believes future library projects would involve satellite locations. As for costs, Flanders put together estimates earlier this year. Operating costs were projected to be $300,000 to $500,000 per year for a branch of 25,000 to 35,000 square feet. Construction and stocking costs were estimated at $13 million to $25 million. Flanders did not have estimates on how much it may cost to rent or buy existing space rather than build new.

Q: Would it be possible for libraries in Lawrence public schools to stay open later and into the weekend to meet the demands for computers, meeting rooms and children’s areas?

A: Flanders said he could not recommend that option. He said libraries must be open to everybody, and he believes that would create security concerns for the school district. He also believes usage of the libraries would be low, and that mixing the public and school collections does not make sense.

“That would be a very undesirable route to take,” Flanders said.

Q: Why is this 72,000-square-foot project deemed to be the right size when in 2006 the library board recommended a 94,000-square-foot, $30 million library project?

A: Mike Machell, chair of the library board, said leaders analyzed the most pressing needs of the library after the 2006 proposal did not gain the support of city commissioners. Both Machell and Flanders said they were confident the 20,000-square-foot expansion would meet the highest priorities of the library.

“And we felt that the $18 million price tag was about as high as we could ask for under the current economic conditions,” Machell said.

Q: How many active library card holders does the library have?

A: 82,688 through the end of September, Flanders said. A breakdown on how many were from the city of Lawrence versus outside the city limits wasn’t available.

Q: Because people from outside the city can use the library, has there been any discussion of having taxpayers throughout the county fund the library instead of just Lawrence residents?

A: Machell said the board did not specifically discuss that option before proposing this bond issue. He said such a change likely would need to be led by city and county commissioners.

“If we could get funding from the county as well, that would strengthen our finances, but that was never presented to us as a direction commissioners wanted to go,” Machell said.

Q: Will the parking garage that is included in this project be available for uses other than the library? Will it charge a fee?

A: Yes. The garage will be a public parking garage much like the city garage near Ninth and New Hampshire. There will be a mix of free two-hours spaces and long-term spaces that require a fee, said City Manager David Corliss.

Q: How will the actual question on the ballot read? Is a ‘yes’ vote a vote in support of the project?

A. That is correct. A ‘yes’ vote means you support the issuance of the $18 million in bonds.

The ballot language for City of Lawrence Question No. 1 is as follows: Shall Charter Ordinance No. 40, entitled ‘A Charter Ordinance Exempting the City of Lawrence 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?


John Hamm 7 years, 6 months ago

Nix, Nine, Nary and No! Too expensive for what will (supposedly) be gained. Get what you have to work - WiFi especially. Don't build a parking garage for the city. Improve current hours!

Liberty275 7 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the information. The important but is that the city will be taking $50 a year from me to pay for a facility and service I will never use.

I'd rather donate the money to have the stray dog's hip replaced.

Vote NO on the library.

Sharon Aikins 7 years, 6 months ago

I've always felt that the current location of the library was a poor choice, not very accessible and the parking situation was so bad I quit going. Since I haven't been there in years, I am wondering if it is and/or will be more handicapped accessible. Too bad we can't do some decent satellite locations.

monkeyspunk 7 years, 6 months ago

My wife and kids go twice a week and never have parking problems. Good try at making stuff up.

hail2oldku 7 years, 6 months ago

Then why is the parking garage needed?

And really 3.3 million on furniture and technology in addition to development costs? What is the real breakdown here? Why are we paying 20 years for something that won't last half that time and will need to be replaced before the bonds expire?

lawrencenerd 7 years, 6 months ago

How much more handicapped accessible does it have to be? The sidewalk ramps allow somebody in a wheelchair easy access to the entrance, and there is an elevator inside.

Tricky Gnosis 7 years, 6 months ago

One thing that the library has never addressed in any of its statements about its expansion is maintenance and repair for current and new equipment. The library is not doing a great job of repairing and keeping up what it has right now:

1) DVDs scratched to the point of unwatchability

2) Computer monitors with images burned onto them because they never had installed a screen saver

3) Dirty and broken seats

I think the library needs to do a better job with what it has before we give them more money to buy more things that will fall apart or be misused.

Chris Ogle 7 years, 6 months ago

The city currently is ESTIMATING the bonds will require an increase of 1.5 mills to the city’s property tax levy.

Remember..... this is just an estimate on how many mills will be required to produce enough revenue to pay off the debt ( 20 year bonds).

No for me. The timing is not right.

irvan moore 7 years, 6 months ago

we're getting screwed with putting a parking garage in this bond issue, it's not a library parking lot and should not be included in this vote.

Godot 7 years, 6 months ago

The assumptions of 3.5% interest rate for the bonds and 1% growth in the local tax base is reason enough to vote no.

We vote on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will unleash massive inflation with the printing of at least a trillion dollars. When Bernanke is done with his attempt to bail out the banks again, no one will settle for a muni at 3.5%. Costs for the financing, and costs for the construction, will be far, far higher than estimated.

Vote no.

timeforachange 7 years, 6 months ago

With the sad shape the city is in financially I can't believe this project is even being discussed. The current facility serves its' function well. Let's turn our attention to more important and worthy causes like fixing our streets, and fire and police. I just feel like I'm taxed to death. I have a hard time willingly accepting another tax (mill) increase. We are having to tighten our belt, so should the library.

Gedanken 7 years, 6 months ago

If you read the other article about computers in today's LJ World. You should see that they have a choice on what tier of accreditation the library wants to achieve. Lawrence Public Library chose the top tier. I think that is great, but ...

This accreditation demands: 1) Minimum levels of pay for employees that exceed even living wage 2) That 50% of the operating budget must be spent on employees.

With those last two ... no wonder the Library is so interested in the level of accreditation THEY CHOSE!

Dan Simons 7 years, 6 months ago

First, let me acknowledge that I am part owner of the Riverfront mall property, adjacent property and an officer with the World Company. Regardless of any personal benefit, I believe there are alternatives to the $18 million library expansion plan that is being presented for a public vote. I believe the following scenario deserves consideration. These numbers were sent on June 18th to library board members and city commission members. I never heard one word back. $1.7 million: Buy Abe and Jakes. 20,000 square feet, large public entertaining, reading, meeting, and coffee shop space on the river, on city land. $4.5 million: Buy the west half of the Riverfront Plaza. Three levels, 70,000 square feet, 230 cat-5 Ethernet wired computer stations, 500 parking stalls, all on city land. $5 million: Renovate the 40,000 square feet on floors one and two at $125/square foot. For $11 million, Lawrence could have a beautiful 90,000-square-foot library, on the river, with a 500-stall existing parking structure, all on city-owned land and enhancing the city’s relationship to the river. And the community library still would be downtown. All work could be done with no interruption to current library operations. The city then could sell the existing library space to help finance the project. Who knows? Possibly a downtown grocery might materialize. I’ve been told an excuse for not considering this is that the Plaza is not class A property. Why would the city government need class A property in these times? I’ve heard some people don’t think the facility can structurally support the weight of stacks of books. This is untrue; we have provided engineering studies that show it can. This space also offers the possibility for future expansion. For about $7 million (at $200 a square foot), a 35,000-square-foot glassed indoor space could be created on the Plaza roof overlooking the river. This idea and other alternatives deserve to be publicly discussed.

Dan Simons

WHY 7 years, 6 months ago

I would be willing to sell my house to the city for 200K which would be 153/square foot. It would hold a dozen homeless, has a coffee maker, has WiFi, and there are already books everywhere. It would take the average reader years to get through everything in this house. I would get an 80k profit and the city would get a great property. What a deal.

BigPrune 7 years, 6 months ago

Does your proposal offer a view of the river, other than the future expansion space?

WHY 7 years, 6 months ago

There is a muddy creek across the road. Very similar to the river and I suppose eventually it becomes the river.

Dan Simons 7 years, 6 months ago

It would be hard to find a better more inviting place to view the river than Abe and Jakes. Imagine coffee house, small retail, reading rooms for kids and adults, all with a large open view of the river, outdoor deck etc. Pretty nice place to read a book

Dan Simons 7 years, 6 months ago

I would add, I am not sure of the exact amount, but this city only receives around $400 a month rent for this city owned space on city owned land

mr_right_wing 7 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence sure didn't last long as a factory outlet mall town, did it?

Both the Riverfront Factory Outlet Mall and the former "Tanger" lasted what?? 5 years? 10 at the most? The "I-70" business center still lies mostly empty.

You can't even really give away space in either of these facilities now!

Food_for_Thought 7 years, 6 months ago


I am part owner of this property. Here is why it is very appealing. I am looking to sell this property. Please buy this property and put millions in my pocket. Did I mention I am open to selling this property?

Dan Simons

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree with this absolutely. I am mystifyed as to why we don't do more to consider these recommendations.

Not just for sound economic reasons, but the view of the Kaw from the Riverfront Mall, especially when the eagles are there, is nothing short of inspirational and yet, we have let this resource languish.

Someone is pushing us too hard in the wrong direction. I think it is time to ask why.

Another important consideration in my view is the importance of aligning the library plans with easy access to a coffee shop/restaurant connected to the building. You might want to check out the Springfield, MO library on HWY 13 where they have a Panera's connected to the library building.

We have to change with the times and we have to have more talented and creative people working on these projects. The proposed project is an expensive dud.

Bailey Perkins 7 years, 6 months ago

Had I not already refinanced..I would vote yes, but I can't and won't pay more towards property taxes. Sorry Lawrence...especially the kids. Should have made this proposal known a lot sooner.

Armored_One 7 years, 6 months ago

Of the 82,866 card holders the library is registering, how many actually use the library?

I've had one for probably 15 years, but that doesn't mean I use the library.

I'm voting no on this one. Just not needed right now. Personally, I am thinking the garage is being added for the pool more than anything else.

hail2oldku 7 years, 6 months ago

Of the 82,866 how many actually still live in the area? Have a clue that they even have library card?

George Lippencott 7 years, 6 months ago

Where does the $170K house come from? Has the average home declined in value by $30K in the last few years?? Let us make it easy. That would be $160 for the average $200K home. So, if you are a senior on SS with no COLA for two years holding on to the old homestead for sentimental reasons this might mean you give up the one night out you have monthly - or maybe you keep the house at 55 during the winter. Different people are impacted differently. KU professors are doing a lot better than seniors on fixed incomes.

Even more important would be the aggregate increases in taxes over several years. They can be murder on such people. But then we did not want them in Lawrence anyway – right??

irvan moore 7 years, 6 months ago

i agree with Mr. Simons, we should buy the riverfront property. It's next to city hall, it is the only developed property next to the river and is a great city resource that should have never been sold in the first place. this commission is putting business and development interests ahead of the citizens interests. how many of these commissioners have a business or connection to a business downtown?

usnsnp 7 years, 6 months ago

I find it intresting, when the things were good we could not afford to update the library, now thing are not so good and we cannot update the library. Mabey it is just that some people want a branch library, of course it would have to be built over in West Lawrence by the High School, the new community theater and Wal-Mart. It would have to be the same size a the present library, of course that would mean either hiring more staff or taking staff from the present library and have to cut down on the hours that the library is open. Of course the the some of the people in West lawrence would never have to come over to East Lawrence and the Downtown.

monkeyspunk 7 years, 6 months ago

Wow, I had never heard of the Riverfront proposal. Perhaps I should pay more attention!

I like it, I think it is far superior to the current location and provides an opportunity to make something out of location that could be really great.

I would vote for a Riverfront based proposal.

kansastruthteller 7 years, 6 months ago

I voted no already and I am glad I did. Without more detail, I can't say if the Simons proposal is a good idea, but I must say it is intriguing and worth reviewing. Sad that it wasn't considered. I, based on what Simons wrote, like the idea of a Riverfront library.

Vote no and lets consider all options and get the best one that will serve Lawrence today and into the future.

ToriFreak13 7 years, 6 months ago

In other words....a bunch of people not planning to live in Lawrence very long or ever own a house or business....get to decide if homeowners should pay more taxes. When do homeowners get to vote on raising the rent for all renters?

jaker07 7 years, 6 months ago

Just wanted to let you know that I am a renter and would in no way have my taxes affected if this passes, and I am still voting no on the principle that the library is asking for way more than what I think it needs, and I think it is grossly unreasonable to ask people to pay for something so insanely unnecessary. The thing that puts the nail in the coffin for me is the superfluous parking garage, but finding out that all of this is mostly so we can get some accreditation that really means nothing makes me even angrier that it is even being presented.

WHY 7 years, 6 months ago

Renters do pay more because landlords will raise rent to offset property taxes Right??

ToriFreak13 7 years, 6 months ago

1 Not all landlords would do such a thing or even be able to because of a thing they call a lease.

2 Renters then have a choice because of the competition in this town to find cheaper rent.

3 Most important. Because if you as a renter face that "potential" risk of rent going up....should not give you the power to give a homeowner absolutely no choice in the matter.

I think it is pretty straight forward the point I am making. If the vote were to ask all renters to pay an additional $50 a year to go towards the library....guess the results?

mr_right_wing 7 years, 6 months ago

What about this question:

"What will happen if the issue fails?"

Will Bruce Flanders and the members of the foundation stomp their feet, pout and resign in protest?

Will the "Friends of the Library" hold a sit-in and shut down traffic on Mass Street?

Will the library have to close it's doors and perhaps the building will become a new Starbucks location? (...and/or a bank too, we don't have enough of either!!)

...all good reasons for why I already voted "NO"!

Godot 7 years, 6 months ago

I like it. Free Kindles for everyone! Spend about $1.5 million and the problem is solved.

Kathleen Schweitzberger 7 years, 6 months ago

Hey Gandalf-- have you ever heard of copyright? You can't just digitize books because you want to. Unless you want to read a bunch of books published before 1923! Sounds exciting.

Kathleen Schweitzberger 7 years, 6 months ago

Read one of the earlier messages. Dan Simons is part owner. What else do the Simons own in this town? A lot. Yeah, let's make them more rich. That makes a lot of sense.

sad_lawrencian 7 years, 6 months ago

Forgo any improvements to the existing building. Leave it as-is. Develop some satellite branches (Wichita has had satellite locations for its public library for 30++ years). Because there are no satellite branches being added, and being tired of downtown traffic, I will resolutely vote "no" on Tuesday. Oh and anyone else get the feeling this project is really about adding a new parking garage?

sandrat83 7 years, 6 months ago

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sandrat83 7 years, 6 months ago

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ralphralph 7 years, 6 months ago

Wow ... about $ 1.8 Million in fudge ... "contingency" and "price escalation". That's a whole lotta fudge.

George_Braziller 7 years, 6 months ago

There is no doubt that the library needs improvements, but I'm going to have to vote "no" on this one.

Don Whiteley 7 years, 6 months ago

And in a recession when many of us are out of work, struggling to make ends meet, home prices are down, and tax revenues are down; the question remains, why? If the Library needs more room, which I seriously doubt, then look at all the schools the city has shut down over the past several years. From what I can see, those properties remain dark and unused. If the library needs more space, why not branch out into some of these unused buildings and spread the wealth of the library across our city? And of all things, using our money to build a parking garage and a drive through convenience? How insane can something possibly get before Lawrence voters wake up and vote no to such spend-thrift ideas?

infidel 7 years, 6 months ago

@ over a $1000.00 per sq ft, who in their right mind would vote for this?

James MacMurray 7 years, 6 months ago

No way this thing should pass. This reminds me of the approach Overland Park tried to take with a soccer stadium/complex. Go for the dream scenario that way overbuilds and overburdens the broad constituancy while catering to a small group that has the ear of the elected officials. The voters (taxpayers) turned it down and before long Overland Park ended up building a much smaller soccer complex that serves a broad constituancy much better and brudens them much less. The only down side was that the local soccer nuts did not get to be big regional power players (by hosting out of town tournaments) on the taxpayer's dime.

A parking garage that adds 124 stalls for $4.3 million? That is almost $35,000 per added parking stall!

budwhysir 7 years, 6 months ago

I have a question about this library thingy they keep talking about... what exactly is the deal here??? a bad economy and all the things going on in the world and our city has nothing better to do than argue about an un needed library at an absurd price tag??? If this thing goes through I believe we should promote lawrence as the LIBRARY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. Make sure and invest in floor mats cause if the doors open this thing is going to have plush carpets, gold accents and you will have to wipe yer feet before you enter OH, wait, and you will have to walk several blocks from the parking garage that you approved also.

Kat Christian 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't know why they need to expand the children's section....looks big enough to me. They need more books in there and I know they have room for them because most of the shelves are only half filled. I can't imagine that many people are checking out that many books. I would agree with putting another floor on the building, but not for a parking garage. I hate those things. Bad timing to ask for this now.

David Roberts 7 years, 6 months ago

I fear that many who exercise their right to vote may do so without having researched this issue. I know that you cannot draw conclusions from online polling and the comments here, but it would seem that most people are not in favor of this proposal. For those who support the issue, please tell me how this proposal strengthens our library when you compare it to other proposals that provide more for less?

budwhysir 7 years, 6 months ago

Free is paid for by those who provide free donations via tax. free is free on days that free is not charged for

Kash_Encarri 7 years, 6 months ago

Dan Simons- why hasn't the paper done a story regarding this alternative selection? Your family owns the newspaper, it shouldn't be that hard.

If it's a worry about conflicts of interest this proposal could have been included with the other alternatives. There were more than just this proposal and the shiny bauble that the Library Board and City Commission are now pushing down our throat. Why not give the voters an idea of what else they could be considering beside vote for this or you don't like books and kids?

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