Oak Harbor library, sewer plant partnership pondered by officials

While it’s uncertain whether the Navy will collaborate with Oak Harbor on a sewage treatment plant, city officials are exploring another potential partnership.

Oak Harbor City Administrator Larry Cort said officials are looking at the possibility of incorporating a new library into the sewage project.

It may seem like an unlikely partnership, but, he explained, the idea isn’t to fill a new treatment plant with shelves of books.

Instead, at least one of the properties the city is considering purchasing would come with a building that has potential to be renovated into a new library.

And Skagit Valley College may be interested in taking over the current library space.

“We’re looking at, ‘How do we make this a win-win-win,’” Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley said, adding that libraries are often located downtown in other communities and are an economic draw for nearby businesses.

City officials are looking at about eight commercial properties on Pioneer Way, in the area across from Ace Hardware, as the site of the new wastewater treatment plant.

Officials hired both a real-estate expert and an archeologist to help with the search.

The City Council is scheduled to select a site next month.

Mary Campbell, managing librarian in Oak Harbor, said the current library has been overcrowded for years and library officials have long wanted to move into a larger building, preferable in downtown Oak Harbor.

The current library is 11,000 square feet.

Campbell said the facility really needs between 20,000 and 25,000 square feet.

Campbell said the library is mainly lacking in space for studying, tutoring and conferences.

“There’s some conflict between those who expect a really quiet library and those who bring the kids and consider the library a community meeting space,” she said.

Oak Harbor resident Sarah Morrison takes her two young daughters to the library and reads to them in the children’s section.

“It’s so busy,” she said. “They should definitely expand it. It’s such a great resource for the community and for families with young children.”

The city currently owns and maintains the part of Hayes Hall that houses the library, while Skagit Valley College shares and owns the rest.

Mick Donahue, vice president of the Whidbey Island campus of SVC, said the college may be interested in taking over the city library’s space someday and convert it into classrooms.

Donahue said the college’s master plan, which should be completed this fall, projects future space needs for the next 10 to 20 years and examines the future of Hayes Hall.

“We do think we will need additional space in the future,” he said. “The library is ideal for reconfiguration, especially for classrooms.”

Like most great ideas, the biggest obstacle will likely be money.

None of the officials said they knew how a new library might be funded or even who would own it.

“We just really don’t know what to expect,” Campbell said. “The one thing we do know is that Oak Harbor is not going to lose its library. They assured us of that.”

“There won’t be books out on the street.”




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