Financing GarCo libraries with COPs a novel idea
GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado ” The Garfield County Public Library District intends to use certificates of participation (COPs), rather than a bond issue, to fund the first round of new library facilities, starting with a brand new library in Rifle and a major expansion to the Parachute branch.
A COP is a lease-purchase arrangement that allows governmental entities to use available funds to finance capital projects without incurring long-term debt obligations.
Unlike a bond issue, it can also be accomplished without going to voters for approval. COPs, however, require that projects be completed within three years from the time the certificates are issued.
The library district would use the roughly $2.5 million per year being generated through a 1 mill property tax levy that county voters approved in 2006, intended for construction of new libraries.
That election also saw the formation of the library district, separating the six-branch library system from Garfield County government but preserving an existing 0.25 percent countywide sales tax for library operations.
“There is a lot of incentive for the taxpayer to move these projects along,” library district board member Lanny Kroh of Carbondale said. “This is a great time to do this, because interest rates are low and contractors need the work. We’re sitting in a great spot right now.”
Following the 2006 election, the district began outreach work in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute to determine what each would like to see in the way of local library facilities.
Making the rounds
After several months of demographic studies to determine needs based on growth trends, followed by meetings with citizen groups, local site selection committees and municipal officials, Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale are poised for brand new libraries at new locations. Major expansions and renovations are planned at the New Castle, Silt and Parachute branches.
Library officials plan to meet with Glenwood Springs City Council in a work session tonight at 5 p.m. to further discuss options for relocating the Glenwood library.
Glenwood is outgrowing its existing 9,000 square-foot facility, and the library district has been working with the city to find a site for a new 16,000-18,000 square-foot library.
“We’re currently looking at a site north of Glenwood Springs Elementary School to build a new library, which would be consistent with some of the city’s plans for the confluence area,” library board member Bill Lamont said.
However, with the city, county and school district all involved in the planning, Glenwood is running further behind the other communities in its library planning efforts.
Rifle, Parachute up first
Rifle City Council last month agreed to a plan to relocate the city’s library from its current location across 2nd Street from city hall, to what’s now the city hall parking lot to the east. The redevelopment would create a civic plaza, with new parking where the library is now.
The library district is working with city officials to build a $9 million (including land acquisition that has already taken place), 26,000 square foot library that would also include the district administration offices.
Also ready for construction to begin later this year once the COPs are issued is a planned 4,700 square-foot, $1.3 million expansion at the existing Parachute library, bringing that facility up to 9,000 square feet total.
The district would like to break ground on both the Parachute and Rifle projects by September, with completion by the latter part of 2010.
Some of the initial financing could also go toward the Silt library, where the current plan is to partner with the town to expand the existing library from 2,200 square feet to 7,500 square feet using town property. The trade-off would be that the town would also make use of the facility.
New Castle’s library upgrades would involve finishing what’s now about 5,000 square feet of unfinished space in the existing facility.
Carbondale weighs options
Likewise, a library planning update is on the May 26 Carbondale Town Council agenda, which will detail a proposal for a new 13,000 square-foot Carbondale branch library at the corner of Sopris Avenue and 3rd Street, where some old, unused tennis courts are now located.
The latest plan is part of a larger redevelopment of the school district property that is in the works between the Bridges Center (former middle school) and the new Third Street Center for nonprofits.
The current Gordon Cooper Library on 4th Street is 3,800 square feet, but plans based on existing needs and future growth estimates are for a 13,000 square-foot facility.
A site selection committee made up of citizens, elected officials and local library representatives has been working to evaluate six different site alternatives, including expansion of the current facility to two or three stories.
However, going to extra floors would require additional staffing, library board member Lamont said. And, adjacent property owners are not interested in selling, so expansion of the site is not an option, he said.
Other site purchase options proved to be too expensive or not feasible for various reasons, leading the committee to recommend the 3rd and Sopris site, Lamont said.
“It has a lot of the amenities we were looking for, including proximity to both downtown and to the schools, and giving us the space we need,” he said. Adjacent parking would also be available, using part of the existing Bridges Center parking lot.
Library and school district officials are planning a neighborhood meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Third Street Center to hear from residents of the area. A report will be made to the town council later that evening.
Contact John Stroud: 384-9160
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