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Tonganoxie Public Library officials talk building future with City Council

September 20, 2016

Tonganoxie Public Library officials have been discussing expansion or the feasibility of building a new structure in some capacity for the last decade.

In the past year, a library foundation was established to create a fundraising arm for new construction.

With the 3/4-cent sales tax for Tonganoxie Water Park set to expire in a year, the Tonganoxie City Council is looking at the option of extending it, possibly 20 years.

If the city pursued extending the sales tax and voters approve, it’s possible money could be earmarked for a new library.

Library Board Member David Frese told the council Monday of some potential options library officials are considering and how they might affect the city.

He said the current library is at 6,000 square feet, while a city of Tonganoxie’s size generally has a library at 9,000 square feet.

With population increase projections in the next decade, those figures push the library’s reasonable size at 16,000 square feet.

Current preliminary estimations carry a price tag between $3 million and $3.6 million.

The library has been conducting an online survey in recent weeks and the consensus has been to keep the library in the downtown area, as 92 percent of folks surveyed preferred that option. Frese said it also was library officials’ hope that the library would continue provide a gateway to the downtown district and, it’s hoped, that traffic patronizes businesses in the district.

The most ideal spot for a 16,000-square-foot library would be at Third and Main streets across the street to the west from Gallagher Park.

Frese said the footprint would include land where the former city shop stands.

Council members asked whether the library would purchase the land from the city or what other arrangements they’ve considered.

The library board member said all options could be looked at, including a swap of land. The library also owns property on the southwest corner of Third and Delaware that extends to the west to the library parking lot. A house formerly stood on the property.

He mentioned some discussion with USD 464 leaders about possibly moving district offices into the current library if a new facility were built, but again, it’s been preliminary talk.

And, as he told The Mirror on Tuesday, the library board many times has discussed a desire to find a tenant for the current building if voters agreed to build a new facility. He said it’s a great building, but the library is outgrowing it. The current library opened in 1991 thanks to a half-cent sales tax voters approved in 1989.

Council Member Jim Truesdell discussed feedback from recent strategic planning public meetings in which many residents put an indoor pool/recreation center a the top or near the top of their lists. He said that feedback should be considered when discussing any projects to be earmarked for a sales tax extension.

Frese, who also is on the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission board, told the council still was retiring debt on ball fields at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds through 2020 and likely wasn’t in position to take on more debt. Truesdell countered, saying the facility potentially could be funded with that sales tax extension revenue.

With regards to a new library, Frese said it’s possible the building could be constructed in phases — the library proper first and then a community room.

The City Council discussed at its last meeting the need to start making some decisions on whether to pursue a vote on the sales-tax extension. And, if it were to fail, allow enough time to put it up for vote a second time.

Frese said the next step for library officials is to commission a fundraiser feasibility study, which it will discuss at its library board meeting Wednesday.

Proceeds from the last three Friends of the Library 5K Run/Walk have totaled almost $30,000 and have been dedicated to the building fund.

“If it was a perfect world, I’d have the winning Powerball ticket and this would all be over with,” Frese said.

The City Council scheduled a special meeting for next week to further discuss the 3/4-cent sales tax debate. That meeting is to start at 7 p.m. Sept. 29, with the planning commission and library board members at council chambers, 321 Delaware.

Originally published at: http://www.tonganoxiemirror.com/news/2016/sep/20/tonganoxie-public-library-officials-talk-building-/