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Voters close book on new library

New funding source is needed to save $3.7M state grant

Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 1:25 a.m. CDT

OREGON – Oregon won’t be getting a new public library after all.

Voters Tuesday rejected a $4.5 million referendum, 999-737, that would have allowed the library board to replace the 105-year-old Carnegie building on Jefferson Street with a new 23,000-square-foot, two-story brick structure at Washington (Route 64) and Sixth streets.

Library board President Scott Stephens said he was disappointed at the outcome.

“I think it’s economic,” he said. “Basically, we’ve got an older community that’s not willing to pay more taxes, whether it’s good for the town or not.”

Stephens said he does not expect the library board will pursue a building referendum in the future.

“If the people of Oregon won’t vote to pay for a new library when half of it is paid for by the state, they’re never going to vote for it,” he said. “It’s sad.”

Voters also defeated a referendum asking for a 6-cent increase per $100 equalized assessed valuation for maintenance of the new facility. The vote was 1,083-638.

The library board had successfully applied for a state grant that would have covered $3.7 million of the approximate $8.2 million cost of the new building.

Stephens said the grant could be used only for library construction and would now be awarded to another library district if Oregon can’t raise the revenue for its share by June 30.

The current library does not meet residents’ needs, he said.

The proposed layout of the new structure offered space on the main floor for the children’s collection, a gallery for the Eagle’s Nest Art Collection, a public meeting room, offices and an activity room.

The second floor of the new building would have housed the general book collection, a teen lounge, a reading area and study areas, and a conference room.

Computers and public restrooms would have been located on both floors.

If both referendums had passed, the taxes on a $100,000 home would have increased about $102 a year, or $87 for homeowners who are senior citizens.

Plans called for paying off the building bonds over 20 years.

Stephens said the new building would have been handicapped accessible, which the current one is not, and would have allowed for ample parking, another deficiency at the current site.

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