Glenwood Springs scraps special election for downtown library site
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – There is not enough time to get all the details worked out to set up a December special election for the city to sell off property for a new downtown library, Glenwood Springs City Council has concluded.
However, city staff will meet with representatives from the Garfield County Public Library District and the Downtown Development Authority within the coming week to lay out some other options.
“We have some alternatives that we will be bringing before the library and the downtown group,” Mayor Bruce Christensen said at the Thursday City Council meeting.
“But I do not see the issues being resolved in time to support having the ballot language within a week,” he said. “Staff is working hard on a solution that wouldn’t involve an election.”
If a December special election were to happen, the ballot language would need to be determined by Sept. 9 and an ordinance approved on first reading by Sept. 16.
“This is in no way meant as criticism for the group that has been working so rapidly to make this happen,” Christensen said.
Possible land transfers that could accommodate a new downtown library to replace the aging facility at Ninth and Blake was the topic of an early evening executive session with legal staff prior to Thursday’s council meeting.
While not at liberty to discuss details, council directed Glenwood City Manager Jeff Hecksel to relay the various options to library and DDA officials in the meantime. A special City Council meeting may be scheduled as early as next week if any action is necessary.
The library district is looking to secure a site for a new 14,000-square-foot Glenwood library, because the existing library is too small to meet current demand, according to district officials.
While the district would prefer to stay downtown, having adequate parking is a key concern. Library officials are also looking at a site in Glenwood Meadows for a new library if a downtown site cannot be secured.
The district has been working with the DDA, Colorado Mountain College, the city and downtown property owners to assess four different downtown sites for a new library and a parking structure to serve the downtown area. The DDA has hired a consultant to do the assessment.
At the Aug. 19 City Council meeting, though, DDA Chairman Charlie Willman requested passage of an “emergency ordinance” to ask city voters in November for permission to sell, transfer or trade city-owned land to be used as a new library site.
Council members, while supportive of finding a downtown library site, agreed the Nov. 2 general election would be too soon, but left the door open for a possible December special election.
Short of securing a specific site for a new Glenwood library, the library district is still moving forward with its plan to secure financing through the sale of $8 million in certificates of participation (COPs).
The money would be used not only for the planned new Glenwood library but for new facilities in Carbondale and Silt as well, library district Executive Director Amelia Shelley said.
Sites have been determined for the Silt and Carbondale projects, but she said the library does not need to have a specific Glenwood location in order to secure the financing, at least until September 2013.
One concern for the library district in moving forward to secure financing quickly is a trio of tax- and government debt-limiting ballot questions that will go before Colorado voters Nov. 2.
Amendment 61, in particular, would severely curtail the ability of local governments and special districts to borrow money for public projects.
“That is one of reasons we are being aggressive,” Shelley said Friday. “By issuing the COPs before the election, we would be grandfathered in. But if we wait until after, and the amendment passes, we’d have to go to a vote of the people and be limited to 10 years.”
For now, the district can pursue the financing for a 16-year term, which would allow for a better interest rate and lower payments. A 10-year term would come with a higher interest rate and a larger payment obligation, Shelley said.
Garfield County voters in 2006 approved a 1 mill levy on property to pay for new library facilities countywide. The COPs would be paid off using those funds.
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