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Two referendums stirring debate

New facility will cost taxpayers $4.5 million

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

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OREGON – The cost of the proposed public library is just too high, one resident says.

“Basically, I don’t need any higher taxes,” Stan Olson said. “Libraries are great, but I can’t fathom that we need an $8 million library in Oregon.”

Oregon Public Library Board President Scott Stephens disagrees.

“The new library is needed because our current building is 105 years old,” Stephens said. “We outgrew it in the 1950s. The board has been talking about a larger library since the 1950s.”

The current library does not meet residents’ needs, he said, but the new one will.

“One of our board members works at the Byron library, and 500 items a month are checked out there by Oregon residents,” Stephens said. “While they’re there, they buy food and gas. We would like to bring them back to town.”

A state grant that will cover almost half the cost of the building is just too good to pass up, he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The library board has successfully applied for a state grant that will cover $3.7 million of the $8.2 million needed, but it will go to another library district if Oregon doesn’t have a way to raise the rest of the money by June 30.

The Oregon Public Library Board has placed two referendums on Tuesday’s ballot. One asks for a $4.5 million bond issue to build and furnish the new building, while the other asks 6 cent increase per $100 equalized assessed valuation in the library’s tax rate, which officials say is needed to maintain the new facility.

If both referendums are approved, the taxes on a $100,000 home will increase about $102 per year, or $87 for homeowners who are senior citizens. Plans call for paying off the building bonds over a 20-year period.

The proposed layout of the new two-story, 23,000-square-foot brick building includes space for the children’s collection, a gallery for the Eagle’s Nest Art Collection, a public meeting room, offices and an activity room on the first floor, and the general book collection, a teen lounge, a reading area, study areas, and a conference room on the second floor.

Computers and public restrooms would be on both floors. The public meeting rooms would be equipped with wifi.

Maybe more importantly, the present library building is not handicapped accessible, Stephens said. The new library would have stairs and an elevator.

“With ADA accessibility, we think people will begin to use the library as a meeting place,” he said.

Olson said the proposed facility is simply too large, and he questions the cost of maintaining it once it’s built.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a 40 percent increase, and that’s forever,” he said. “And we’ve got to maintain the old building, too.”

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