News

Naysayers attend library meeting

The Yes! Yes! campaign was met with a few No! No’s! at a public meeting Tuesday night.

“There’s not a bit of positives,” Oak Harbor resident Bea Fowler said of the proposed new library. “I’m concerned about the day care facility. There’ll be people who bring their kids and park them down there.”

The meeting comes with less than a month before voters decide the fate of the proposed downtown library. Two issues will come before voters in the Sept. 14 primary: Will voters form a special taxing district in order to fund a new library and will voters approve a $12-million bond measure to build the new library.

Citizens raised questions about the need for the 30,000 planned square feet of the new library, which is proposed for a site sandwiched between Bayshore Drive and Pioneer Way. The current library facility is 11,200 square feet.

Oak Harbor resident Bill Burnett said organizers estimated how much space would be needed based on inaccurate data.

“Sno-Isle has used a couple of population projections that are not accurate,” Burnett said.

According to U.S. Census data, the population of North Whidbey grew by 145 people from 1990 to 2000. Oak Harbor experienced a more significant growth. In the same time period, Oak Harbor grew from 17,176 people to 19,795 people, or 2,619 more people.

The unincorporated areas around the city, however, saw the opposite. In 1990, the population was at 17,416. In 2000, that number shrank by 2,474 to 14,942 people.

According to the Sno-Isle Web site, the population of Island County grew by approximately 23 percent since 1990. According to U.S. Census data, however, Island County saw an 18.9 percent increase between 1990 and 2000.

Sno-Isle Library Director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory said she wants the new library to withstand the projected growth of Island County.

“What we are really trying to do is to get the library there as the county grows,” she said. “If the bond measure fails, it’s not going to stop. The population will grow and the building is still going to be crowded.”

Some patrons of the library have been feeling the pinch during the busy summer months. Oak Harbor resident Julie Hebb, who was at the library with her daughter, said she has seen more than 100 families waiting for a summer reading program.

“The facility here is just not large enough for the amount of people it serves,” she said.

The selection of the downtown site also proved to be a tripping point for some citizens. According to the Oak Harbor Library Selection packet from Sno-Isle Libraries, the cost of acquiring the land is estimated at $595,000, which is more than the assessed value of the land. According to the Island County Auditor’s office, the total assessed value of the three parcels needed for the new library is $442,136.

“My other concern was that the committee did a decent job of picking the site by the senior center,” Burnett said.

The original site favored by the selection committee was a site on Jerome Street near the Senior Center. Choosing that site would have cut approximately $2 million in construction costs, Woolf-Ivory said. One of the downfalls of the Jerome Street location was the presence of Little League baseball fields, which would have been removed for the new building. Also, the City Council urged selection of the downtown site.

The $12-million facility has been under consideration since 2000, Woolf-Ivory said. Tuesday’s meeting was intended to give people information to take with them when they vote, she said.

Citizens such as Fowler came to ask critical questions about the planned facility.

“All they’re doing is talking,” Fowler said. “They’re not giving us something positive. They don’t know how much this thing is going to cost.”

The plans for the new library include 50 computers and more than 200,000 books. The new facility will also have more than four times the current available parking spaces.

“This current library wasn’t designed for computers,” library supporter Bob Hallahan said. “The next one is being designed with computers as part of it.”

In order for the new library to become a reality, voters will need to approve two measures. The first is to form a Library Capital Facility Area, which delineates boundaries of where taxes can be collected from. Voters will also need to approve a bond measure to provide funds for only the building and outfitting of a new facility. Operation of the new building will come from the Sno-Isle budget.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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