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JH News&Guide: As Attendance Rises, Library Wants Space

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
By Cara Rank, JH News&Guide

Leaders Seek $8.45M in August SPET Election for Addition, Renovation

Since 2000, library attendance in the county has increased 122 percent, with more than 1,100 people visiting the main branch on an average weekday.

In fiscal year 2009, Teton County Library checked out a record 414,000 materials, an increase of 9 percent from the previous year.

During that same period, the public logged more than 150,000 sessions on the library’s computers, while programs such as story time continue to draw overflow crowds.

These are just a fraction of the reasons library leaders seek $8.45 million from the specific purpose excise tax to undertake an addition and renovation to improve the main branch on Virginian Lane. The library is one of 11 groups seeking a collective $38 million from the 1 percent voter-approved sales tax.

The SPET is 16 percent of sales tax imposed on most goods and services in the county.

“It is so important that there is enough space for the books and library materials that our community is looking for, that there’s enough space for children to go to really important early literacy programs,“ said Deb Adams, director. “It’s important that there is enough space for students of every age to have a quiet place to study, to be able to provide computers to the people that need them when they’re searching for information.“

The library proposes an 11,000-square-foot addition and a renovation of the existing 24,000-square foot building, parking lot and outdoor areas. The addition and renovation would be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified. The library’s existing building systems would be replaced or modified to increase energy efficiency and to handle technology upgrades.

The proposal has been in the works for years.

The library surveyed the community in 2005 as part of a strategic planning process, and the community identified the need for more space as a priority.

In 2008, during the last SPET election, the library was awarded $1.5 million to pay for architectural fees as well as research and planning for the construction of an energy-efficient, green building. The addition would be located on the site of the main library, which was designed for expansion. Voters approved $4.8 million in SPET money for the construction of the first building in Au gust 1994.

“The reality is that people are already here using the library in really important ways, for studying and for work,“ Adams said. “We don’t really have enough space right now for the folks who are already here.“

The addition would provide more space for materials such as books and DVDs as well as quiet places to read and study that are separated from noisier areas.

The library also could add more computers and upgraded technology infrastructure.

A dedicated teen space for books, computers and homework and more meeting areas for residents and community groups would be built.

“Without this, we’re really kind of stuck until another election,“ Adams said. “We’ll have to make due with what we have. Part of the challenge will be that a big part of the project is the renovation.“

Ballot language:
Proposition No. 3
Teton County Library Addition and Improvements $8,450,000 for the funding of the design, planning, engineering, constructing, equipping, collections and furnishing of an 11,000-square-foot addition to and improvements to the current main county library located at 125 Virginian Lane. The improvements to the current library structure shall include upgraded and energyefficient building systems and improved parking/entryway and landscaping. Any excess funds, including any unused contingency funds, shall be placed into a designated account, the principal and interest of which shall be used for operations and maintenance of the library located at 125 Virginian Lane. To the extent necessary and allowed by law, the pledge to or payment of debt service and/or lease payments thereon the project. This project is sponsored by Teton County.

Many of the building systems are nearing the end of their lives and need replacing or upgrading in “the very near future,“ she said.

The addition would increase operating costs about $81,000 per year. The addition is being designed to require no additional staff to operate. While in the short term the library is a casualty of the county’s shrinking budget, Adams said this plan is about long-term needs.

“Demand for library services and the number of people coming through our door has not changed with reduced hours and a tougher economy,“ she said. “To me it’s about the fact that people need their library now more than ever.“

If all 11 SPET projects are approved by voters, it would take three to five years to collect the $38 million from the SPET program. The tax generates about $9 million to $10 million annually in Teton County. The optional sales tax is paid by visitors and residents on most goods purchased within the county other than food. One consultant has estimated that visitors pay 40 percent of the tax.

Historically, the sales tax has allowed local government to provide services and facilities that otherwise might not be funded without bonding or increasing mill levies and property taxes.

Even if just one project is approved, sales tax will remain the same: 6 percent in the town and county and 8 percent in Teton Village. Propositions need a simple majority to pass.

Projects that won voter approval for the current SPET tax will be fully funded by December. When that is accomplished, funding for new projects would begin.

After funding is awarded by voters, the county treasurer will set a distribution schedule that would determine when projects could begin, though bonding based on those revenues is always an option and allows projects to start before the money is accrued.

11 projects seek SPET funding Project Amount (in millions) START transit facility and public works maintenance facility planning $3.25 Construction of North Highway 89 pathway $0.85 Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation improvements $1.465 Teton County Library addition and improvements $8.45 St. John’s Medical Center cancer, surgery and obstetrics expansion $11.75 Museum of Jackson Hole $4 Energy conservation measures for public buildings $3.79 Wilson bridge recreation area and South Park/Wilson bridge river access $1 Teton County fairgrounds improvements $1.45 Jackson Hole Fire/EMS apparatus replacement $1.027 Town of Jackson pedestrian improvements $1

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