Board opts for April vote on library tax
Reacting to City Council suggestions, the Grand Forks Library Board is postponing the proposed public vote on a new sales tax until April. Board members met Thursday, and discussion of the tax and the new $18.8 million library building it would f...
Reacting to City Council suggestions, the Grand Forks Library Board is postponing the proposed public vote on a new sales tax until April.
Board members met Thursday, and discussion of the tax and the new $18.8 million library building it would fund dominated discussion.
The board had earlier considered putting the issue on the November ballot, but council members advised against that, saying voters upset with federal spending will be in a mood to say "no" at that time. Council members also felt the board didn't have enough information to win public support.
Chairwoman Susan Mickelson said it was disappointing to hear all that but agreed there were some unanswered questions.
Also Thursday, the board decided it would ask the public for a ½-percent sales tax over 5½ years, and it would discuss co-locating a library with the Park District's future wellness center.
The current library near the Grand Cities Mall on South Washington Street is widely considered to be outdated and far too small for the level of activity in it.
Originally, the rationale for rushing to the November election was because the next citywide election is in June 2012 and the board worried about spending money on a special election. The board also wanted to take advantage of the low-interest Build America bonds program, and the deadline is December.
Those rationales have evaporated. The City Council has said it's willing to pay for a special election so library funds wouldn't need to be used, and Mickelson said there are other bonding options that might be better than the Build America program.
Board members discussed either a winter or spring election date. Winter, they said, would be a problem because the cold could suppress voter turnout and many people also head south for the winter.
When Mickelson mentioned that the second week of April is National Library Week, it seemed like a sign, and everyone agreed to seek a public vote then.
The Tuesday of that week is April 12.
Board members had a somewhat harder time with setting the amount of the sales tax. Some council members had suggested a 1-percent sales tax for 2½ years, believing voters would prefer a heavier tax burden for a shorter amount of time.
Mickelson said no one's asked for anything as high as 1 percent for a long time, and other board members agreed.
"I think 1 percent is just too much in your face," Lila Christensen said.
The decision on the site for the proposed library was more difficult still.
The two sites now under consideration are the old Leevers supermarket on South Washington and farmland on 32nd Avenue South near the old Rex electronic store.
But, according to Mickelson, either one would cost more than $1 million. The Park District has said it's willing to share land for its wellness center with the library, so that would be free, she said.
The problem is the board had earlier ruled out locations south of 32nd Avenue as too far south, preferring a more centralized location. The wellness center site is off of South Washington Street on land between 40th and 47th Avenue South.
Board member Richard Fiordo said he doesn't think the additional driving time is a big deal.
Board member Kay Powell said she felt conflicted because she's worried about the ability of those that need library services the most to get to such a remote location.
A library survey in 2009 found that 23 percent of patrons live north of DeMers Avenue, 60 percent live south and 17 percent outside of town.
The board compromised by agreeing to simply add the wellness center site to the mix without preferring it over the other two sites.
Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to email@example.com .