Downtown Library: Build Now, Vote Later

Maybe they’ll call it Park ’n’ Read

Your vote on the downtown central library proposal on the June bond issue will be somewhat anticlimactic. They’ve already started the project.

In a manner straight from the playbook of former mayor Erik Jonsson, the moving force behind the project, the city has found a way to spend more than $5 million in public funds on the library before the voters get a chance to say anything about it.

In case you haven’t noticed that gaping hole at the corner of Young and Ervay Streets, the bulldozers are carving away at what will be the foundation for the new library. They’ve been at it for weeks now.

How does the city get away with beginning construction before the bond election? Simple, explains library official Dick Waters. All that construction this spring was just a “parking garage” to serve the new City Hall across the street. It seems that the city landed a $5-million federal grant last fall to build a two-story underground parking facility, co-incidentally located on the site selected for the library.

The “garage” is being constructed in a manner that will make a perfect foundation, coincidentally, for the multistory library building. Architectural plans for the library have already been paid for by $800,000 worth of bonds approved in two previous bond elections, so it’s a simple matter to work from those plans now.

So even though most of the money spent on the project comes from your federal income taxes instead of your city property taxes, you’ve got a considerable investment in the building already. With an additional $10 million in private money pledged to help pay for the $44-million structure, you can’t afford to turn it down. Right?

At least that’s the way city officials apparently saw it when they started the project. If for some reason voters do turn down the library plan, the officials are prepared to cover the whole site with asphalt and have the finest two-story underground parking garage tax money can buy.

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