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City of Ames Directs Staff to Write Bond Language for Library

$18 million of the $20 million needed for the project would come from property tax collections.

Ames City Council approved a motion Tuesday asking staff to write the language for an $18 million bond referendum that would fund a public library expansion.

If the City Council approves the ballot language, $3 million more of the $20 million expansion project will come from property taxes than originally expected. The Library Board of Trustees had hoped to obtain $5 million in grants and gifts, but now it fears that won't happen in the current economy.

Trustees currently have $1.3 million in pledges. Any funds in excess of $2 million raised would be used to reduce the amount bonded.

Art Weeks, Ames Public Library director, told council in a presentation that the board has held 22 public forums and interviewed about 400 potential voters during the expansion planning process.

The majority of people said they wanted the library to remain in its current location on and to maintain the building's historic structures, Weeks said.

Plans call for increasing the size of the library from 49,000-to 77,000-square feet and leaving plenty of open flexible space.

When the most recent addition opened in 1985 “no one even thought of the Internet as a public utility. Today it virtually drives our business. (Today's) incoming freshman never lived in a world without the World Wide Web,” Weeks said.

No one objected to the project during the meeting, but Ames Public Library Board of Trustees President Dudley Luckett said he has heard some objections while speaking to community members.

They say the project comes at a bad time because of the depressed economy, he said. But, you can turn that argument on its head, Luckett said.

“It's the perfect time to build a new library. The prices are low and the interest rates are low,” he said.

Other people have told Luckett that they don't use the library, but Luckett said that people often make a similar argument about school bond projects. They say they don't have children when asked to support school building projects, he said. However, those arguments don't make sense because schools and libraries are two things that make a city livable, he said.

Many agree that updates are needed.

Portions of the library fail to meet (American Disabilities Act) standards, Weeks said. There are steps in some areas, halls are narrow and shelves are too close together. Tables have been removed to make more room for books and the teen area is in a hallway. The 650-foot young adult section has four computers and one table.

“We need to do better,” Weeks said.

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