SOUNDOFF: A new library for Oak Harbor?

When I helped move books into the current Oak Harbor Library in 1992, the world (and Oak Harbor) was a different place: the city’s population was approximately 18,000 there were 10 computers in the library and about 93,000 books. Internet access in libraries was still several years in the future.

A lot has changed in the last 12 years.

Internet availability and online resources make up a significant piece of daily library activities; the Oak Harbor population has swelled by more than 19 percent and that growth is projected to continue. On average, about 900 people visit the Oak Harbor Library every day. The current library has 30 computers and about 115,000 books and other library materials.

The good news is, the library is heavily utilized by residents of all ages. Children, teens and seniors are part of a steady stream of people who claim the library as their own. The challenge is, the library isn’t large enough to meet those increased demands for service.

Voters next month will be asked to form a library capital facility area and approve a $12 million bond to build a larger library in downtown Oak Harbor.

A library capital facility area is a special taxing district that serves one purpose: to fund building a new library. It can not be used for any other purpose and the capital facility area dissolves when the bond is paid off. The Oak Harbor Library Capital Facility Area will spread the cost of paying for a new library among the library’s service area, not just among city residents. In the case of Oak Harbor, everyone who lives within Oak Harbor School District will be voting and potentially paying for a new library. This is a more fair way to fund a building that serves more than just city residents.

Many of you have had questions about the cost, what the tax dollars can be used for and how the increased maintenance and operations of a larger library will be funded.

The $12 million price tag is based on the result of a feasibility study and building plan developed by the Oak Harbor Library Building Committee, a group of local volunteers who put endless hours into preparing a proposal and needs assessment for a new library. Oak Harbor City Council committed to using the proceeds from the sale of the current library to support a new library. Sno-Isle Libraries will own the new library, and pay for the ongoing maintenance of the new library through its operating budget. Future operating funds will not be collected through Oak Harbor Library Capital Facility Area.

The cost to taxpayers within the Oak Harbor School District would be about $68 a year on a home valued at $200,000.

I encourage each of you to find out more about the library project. To help you get the information you need before September 14, the Sno-Isle Libraries is hosting a community forum on the two ballot measures on Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 5:30 p.m., in Oak Harbor Library’s meeting room. You may also talk with library staff, or call me at 800-342-1936 extension 7008 with questions.

The best vote you can cast is an informed vote.

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory is library director for Sno-Isle Regional Library Sytem.

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