Bunker Hill — The Peru Library board is hoping to secure county funding to begin work on a $3 million remodeling project.
Barrie Rassi, board president, said the board has been working for six years on the project to revitalize the building that first opened in 1902. Board members are seeking $1 million from the county to proceed with the project.
The plan is to connect the library with the adjacent museum building and to reduce the five different levels to three.
“There is a lot of wasted space,” Rassi said. “There are no furnishings and no public spaces. There is no central air conditioning and no insulation in the walls. The electric system is not capable of handling the computer systems.”
Once funding is obtained, Rassi said the library will have to find a new location for approximately one year while the remodeling work takes place.
The library serves all of Miami County, except for one township, he said.
“We are presenting a two-pronged approach,” Rassi said of the request for county funding. “It is an essential public service and adds to the quality of life in Miami County.
“We are not as valuable to the community as we could be,” he said. “With the emphasis on education and economic development, a revitalized library could have an impact.”
The Peru Common Council has voted to issue $2 million in bonds, but the plan is contingent on the county providing some funding.
Rassi said the request from the county is $50,000 in each of 20 years.
The library board first requested the county commit the money from the Economic Development Income Tax revenues, a request that was opposed by the Miami County Economic Development Authority.
Rassi said the county has a balance of $2,255,000 in the EDIT account.
“There are also a number of projects coming off the books in 2012,” he said. “The library project is two or three years down the road; we’re looking for a commitment from the county.”
Jim Tidd, executive director of MCEDA, said the board has recommended not using EDIT funds on the library project.
“We already have commitments for the EDIT funds,” he said. “There is Dean Baldwin Painting and prior commitments for infrastructure improvements.
“We know there is a need for improvements at the library,” Tidd said. “We support that.”
Tidd said another concern is the overpayment by the state to Miami County in EDIT funds in the past. How those funds will be repaid has not been determined, he said
The library board is prepared to offer some funding alternatives to county officials, Rassi said.
“We have identified a number of funds the county has in reserve,” Rassi said of a new presentation to be made Monday to the county commissioners. “Since 2007 three of those funds have seen growth.”
The Riverboat fund, which is the county’s share of gaming revenue, has increased from $500,000 in 2007 to $1 million this year and takes in $225,000 per year, he said.
Rassi said the Rainy Day fund has grown from $214,000 to $1.6 million and the Cumulative Courthouse Fund has increased from $605,000 to $1.6 million.
He said the county is collecting more property taxes because of the increase in the assessed value of farm ground and more people are working in Miami County.
Rassi said an option for county officials would be to make a single payment of $540,000 to the project with the city of Peru covering the remaining $1.46 million in costs.
• Ken de la Bastide is the Kokomo Tribune enterprise editor. He can be reached at 765-454-8580 or via e-mail at email@example.com.