Central Whidbey tax proposed

Sno-Isle Libraries wants to expand its Coupeville building and officials are looking to taxpayers to foot the bill.

Sno-Isle Libraries Library Director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said the organization wants to basically double the size of the library that is located on Alexander near Front Street.

“I think libraries do best when they’re in the middle of the community,” Woolf-Ivory said during last Tuesday’s council meeting.

The library system is planning to expand the branch to 5,200 square feet. The expansion will enlarge the children’s area; install an additional meeting area that can be accessible when the library is closed; and provide patrons with additional reading and study space.

In all, the expansion plans will cost approximately $2.2 million. A 20-year bond for that amount would cost approximately 7 cents per $1,000 assessed value of a home.

The library system wants to work with the town, which currently owns the building and the property, to run a bond measure voters would decide on in May.

To get such a measure passed, voters will have to decide on two proposals, one to approve the formation of an improvement district, and another to approve the bond. The first measure has to pass by a 50 percent simple majority and the bond has to pass by a 60 percent supermajority.

Since people from outside town limits also use the library, Woolf-Ivory suggests using the Coupeville School District boundary for the May election.

“We have the ability to make a building supported by the whole community,” Woolf-Ivory said.

In addition to the renovation, money in the proposed bond measure would go to pay off the current debt the town is paying for the building and the property. Then ownership of the facility would be transferred to Sno-Isle Libraries.

The town is halfway through paying off a 40-year bond on the property. It will cost approximately $70,000 to pay off the debt for the town.

Woolf-Ivory said the library system has taken ownership of libraries in Mukilteo and Freeland and language could be written into an agreement requiring a library to remain in Coupeville.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said the town got out of the business of libraries years ago. The $35,000 the town had used to operate the library now goes to fund street repaving efforts. The town currently maintains the building and she said this might be a good time to change that arrangement.

“It might be time to separate ourselves completely,” Conard said.

Some council members questioned the idea of running a bond and doubted the timing of it.

“May seems awfully tight,” said Councilwoman Dianne Binder.

Councilwoman Molly Hughes said that there are a lot of resentful people in the area because escalating construction costs prompted Coupeville school officials to forego some of the promised projects on a bond that funded construction of the new high school.

“Some of them have a sour taste in their mouth,” Hughes said.

Town council members wanted more details about the proposed expansion and more information about the cost of running an election. That information should be available during a February meeting.

Woolf-Ivory said a decision has to be made next month in order to give enough time to get the proposal on the May ballot.

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