Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

TOP STORY>> Library vote on agenda for city

IN SHORT: Jacksonville could decide on approving a millage election for new facility

By BRiAN RODRIGUEZ
Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council will consider an ordinance at Thursday night’s regular monthly meeting to hold a special election to pass a one-mill tax increase to fund up to a $2.5 million bond for a new library.

The ordinance calls for a special election to be held on Tuesday, July 5, and a positive vote from registered voters would generate about $165,000 per year to fund land purchase, equipping the land, and constructing a new library building.

“That’s building a good library and one you can expand on,” said Nixon Branch Librarian Kate McKinney. “That’s gonna be a good solid library that’s gonna last.”

“It can be a landmark to Jacksonville, and it can be a pretty thing — just magnificent,” said Mark Wilson, the Jacksonville representative for Central Arkansas Library System.

The proposed ordinance is a result of 174 signatures that were turned in on a petition that began circulating after the public library hearing held on May 2 at the Esther D. Nixon Library to discuss expanding the current building or constructing a new building. Only 100 signatures were needed, and McKinney said a page of about 30 more was left off when the petition was turned in to the city.
Officials pushed for a new library building during the meeting, saying it could be a centerpiece for city and that it could be the first CALS library built with wireless Internet capabilities.

Representatives of the Witsell, Evans and Rasco architecture firm in Little Rock argued constructing a new building would cost about as much money as expanding the current building.

“Band-Aids aren’t the way to go,” McKinney said. “This would be an incredibly expensive Band-Aid.”

Contributing cost factors for expansion included removing asbestos materials, adding insulation, limited expansion room, and relocating the library for the duration of construction.

Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System, said the current library building would also need overall aesthetic changes like new lighting, flooring, and wall covering.

“We’re looking at a space that’s too small and a building that can’t really be modified very cost-effectively,” Wilson said.
The library was formed in city hall in 1959 with Esther Dewitt Nixon serving as librarian.

The current building was created in 1969 with 9,265 square feet and was renamed the Esther D. Nixon Library in 1992.
“We probably didn’t have a spectacular amount of money for the building at that time and it’s served its purpose,” Wilson said.

The average CALS library building, excluding the Nixon Library, is five years old and about 14,000 square feet.
In other business, the council will consider:

– appointing Pat Griggs to fill the unexpired term of Bill Gwatney on the hospital board.
– reappointing Bart Gray, Jr., to the advertising and promotions commission.
– an ordinance to reclassify two acres of land on Valentine Road from R-0 to R-3.
– and a final plat for Forest Oaks phase II.