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Gordon Cooper library looks for boost from town

Donna Gray

The Gordon Cooper library in Carbondale could have a bright future if the town agrees to a plan by the county library board. The town board heard a pitch from library director Jaci Spuhler and library board member Bill Lamont this week that would give the town responsibility for directing Gordon Cooper’s future growth. That future would be contingent on how active the town would get in helping the library board find a way to fund either a new or expanded library.Lamont and Spuhler presented the five-year strategic plan that includes some creative ideas for growing Garfield County libraries. Currently, the library system is funded by a one-quarter cent sales tax. Revenues now cover operating expenses and maintenance but not capital improvements, Spuhler said. Given the population growth in the county and an increase in demand for services, the libraries need to expand.”The reality is, we have to work with you to improve this facility,” Spuhler said to the town board.Newly revised library legislation allows a library board and local government to create a regional library authority, which can collect property taxes.”If we were to go to a vote of the entire county (to form a taxing authority) it’s questionable whether we’d get the funds,” Lamont said. Such a measure failed at the polls in Garfield County in 1999.But a special library district that includes an area local to Carbondale, perhaps similar to the town’s fire district, would have a better chance of passing muster with the voters.Lamont also asked the town to consider including the library in its capital improvement program. Town board member Alice Laird was enthusiastic about the idea.”I’m so thrilled you’re taking this approach,” she said. “I’m like, let’s do it, let’s figure something out.”She suggested forming a “working group” to explore the funding options and come back with a plan. Laird also asked town manager Tom Baker to find out about funding opportunities for such a planning effort.Baker pointed out that the Basalt library board formed a special taxing district with Pitkin and Eagle counties. He asked Spuhler if once such a district were in place would the library then lose county funding. Spuhler said the sales tax would remain in play. He also suggested asking the voters to approve a modest mill levy increase in order to fund the planning.”This might be a four-year effort,” he said.Town trustee John Foulkrod put a bit of a damper on the conversation pointing out that forming a special district is not as easy as it appears.”I’m not necessarily in favor of another taxing district. It’s not my cup of tea.”Foulkrod also took a swipe at plans to build a performing arts center in Carbondale.”It’s a lot easier to build a library than a million-dollar theater,” he said.Mayor Michael Hassig also offered a reality check. “I think you would get a pretty unanimous approval for this board” to look at options for funding, but the town would not pay for a new library out of a capital improvement fund.”Let’s have no illusions about where the money would come from,” he said.Lamont said the library board wasn’t expecting the town to fund such a project out of its own coffers. He also expressed surprise at how quickly the idea took fire at the town board meeting.”We didn’t come here with a plan to expand the Gordon Cooper library, but just with a concept,” he said.”We didn’t come here with a plan to expand the Gordon Cooper library, but just with a concept,” he said.


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