Glenwood Springs City Council won’t be rushed into library decision
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The City Council this week declined to be “rushed” into decisions aimed at finding a new, downtown site for the Garfield County Library branch here.
Even so, every council member who spoke about it said they definitely were in favor of keeping the library in the downtown area.
The district is looking for a new site because the existing library, at Ninth Street and Blake Avenue, is too small to meet the public’s needs, according to district officials.
Attorney Charlie Willman, chair of the city’s Downtown Development Authority, appeared at the Aug. 19 council meeting and requested passage of an “emergency ordinance” to ask voters for permission to sell, transfer or trade city-owned land to be used as a new library site.
But the final location of the site is not yet determined, nor are many other details that would affect the relocation and construction of a new, larger library for Glenwood-area users, and related issues.
It was the lack of details to give to voters, and a dislike for making decisions hastily, that convinced the council members to hold off.
Willman, who said he was acting in his position as chair of the DDA and not as an emissary for the Garfield County Public Library District, said the DDA has been working with the library district, Colorado Mountain College and the owners of the U.S. Bank building to find a downtown site that might accommodate the expansion needs of both the library district and the college.
One of the seven potential sites now being considered is the parking lot behind the bank building, at the corner of Eighth and Cooper, along with other parking lots and public spaces.
“I’m here, essentially, on what I would call an emergency basis,” Willman told the council members at the meeting.
He, along with library district director Amelia Shelley, said the district is worried about the potential passage in November of any of three ballot statewide questions – amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101 – that could severely limit the district’s ability to borrow money to build new libraries.
The district board has concluded that the best way to borrow such funds is to sell “certificates of participation,” or COPs, and Shelley said the district feels it needs to sell them before the November election to avoid any entanglements with the ballot question results.
In order to sell the COPs, said Shelley, certain decisions need to be made right away, including the selection of a downtown site by the city.
The city needs voter approval to dispose of public property, and Willman and Shelley were hoping the council would move quickly to meet looming deadlines for getting a question on the November ballot.
But Mayor Bruce Christensen and others on the council balked.
“I’m just very uncomfortable with doing something like this on the fly,” the mayor declared.
Plus, he and others on the council questioned the library district’s contention that if the council waits, the library district may put its new building near the Glenwood Meadows shopping center.
“I don’t think it’s brinkmanship,” responded Willman about the district’s need for a decision soon. “I don’t think they’re threatening the city.”
Shelley indicated that the district may put a site near Glenwood Meadows under contract soon, but that work simultaneously could continue to seek ways to keep the library downtown.
“We need property as collateral for a COP, or at least a promise of property,” Shelley told the council, in order to get the process going before the November election and in advance of possible passage of the three ballot questions.
But, the mayor noted, if any of the three anti-tax questions passes, “we’ll all be in the same boat” in terms of restrictions on borrowing money to build public projects, which could kill off any talk of a new library building.
And, he noted, if the city turns over a publicly owned parking lot as a new library site, it must build a parking structure somewhere to make up for the lost parking spaces. And the city had been hoping the other partners in the project would help with the cost of such a structure, he said.
In the end, the council decided against putting a question to the voters in November, and instead to work toward a special election in December.
In the meantime, officials will be working to flesh out the details of a complex agreement involving selection of a site and sharing of costs to build a new, downtown library and a related parking structure.
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