Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

December 13, 2008

Plan B costs less

“If someone had told me in 2005, when I took office of president of the library board, that we still wouldn’t have a library built by the end of my presidency in 2006,” began a column we published by Susan Luttrell, “I would have laughed at their foolishness.”

Luttrell isn’t laughing. But in the four years since the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library announced plans to build a new, 89,000-square-foot main library, its board hasn’t sat still.

Architect and library consultant Mike Montgomery presented the board last year a new needs assessment for the library system. He advised the board expand the Russiaville and South branches, and scale back its downtown building plans to 58,000 square feet.

Statistics supported Montgomery’s advice. Between 2002 and 2007, foot traffic had increased 54 percent at the South Branch, 32 percent at Russiaville and 6 percent at the Main Library downtown.

But state officials stopped the board’s plan to build a $6 million expansion to the South Branch. The board sought authority to sell $2 million in bonds, which would have increased property taxes. The state rejected the request.

Last week, board members approved plans to use their existing capital funds to expand public areas in the downtown library, build a pre-engineered structure at the South Branch, move the bookmobile and collection management services into the new, $1 million building on the south side and purchase a new, $229,000 bookmobile.

Many community leaders likely aren’t thrilled with the board’s action. A plan to incorporate a new library and YMCA on several blocks of promised downtown greenspace has been bandied about for years.

Those leaders had their chance, and it has passed. The library board has been more than patient these many years. It now has a capital plan that will renovate the downtown facility without raising taxes.

Besides, reworking the Main Branch might attract the kind of foot traffic the South Branch has seen. If that happens, everyone wins: library patrons and taxpayers.

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