2015-09-01 / Front Page

Library’s $2,000,000 Expansion On Track To Receive Bids In December

Staff Report

A planned expansion of the public library in Spencer will be fully funded by a new, 15-year, $2 million bond, which will not affect the county’s debt limit or raise the local tax levy for residents. (Staff Photo) A planned expansion of the public library in Spencer will be fully funded by a new, 15-year, $2 million bond, which will not affect the county’s debt limit or raise the local tax levy for residents. (Staff Photo) Two months have passed since the Owen County Public Library’s Board of Trustees learned that a county-wide income survey did not garner the results needed to qualify the county as at least 51 percent low- to moderate income. While the results meant the library was no longer eligible to qualify for a $400,000 federal Community Development Block Grant through the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs (OCRA), a planned $2 million expansion of the library remains on track to begin in 2016.

The project will instead be fully funded by a new, 15-year, $2 million bond, which will not affect the county’s debt limit or raise the local tax levy for residents.

“What we as a board have been doing is going through the material our bond counsel, Ice-Miller, and our advisor, Mike Therber of Therber and Brock, have given us to move forward with the sale of the bonds to finance the expansion,” noted Frank Coffin, president of the OCPL Board of Trustees. “There are legally binding resolutions that must be approved to sell the bonds, and we have done a number of them, but there are more to come, just so that we have all the ‘i’s’ dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed to meet the legal requirements. My own view has been that it’s important that we as a board understand what we’re doing, not just sign off blindly, and I’m very proud of how hard the board has worked to get through all this material. We do still have some questions, mostly about particular definitions, but Ice-Miller, Therber and Brock, and our own counsel, Richard Norman, are working to answer them.”

The library board has signed the Final Bond Resolution (FBR), along with several others regarding publication, process, and documentation of funding and expenditures.

“The FBR by itself is about a dozen detailed pages and authorizes the sale of the bonds, and explains how they will be sold, handled, and repaid,” Coffin explained. “We have published the appropriate public notices necessary to this point, and will continue to do so. Next steps are to draft and approve a Final Official Statement and to hold a due diligence call with all parties involved to make sure we have things right. Then we do the second publication of the Intent to Sell Bonds.”

On September 15, with the advice of counsel, Coffin said the bond sale itself will take place.

“A Bid Committee from the library, consisting of treasurer Donald Taylor, library director Ginger Rogers, and me, as the president of the Board of Trustees, will award the bonds to the appropriate bidders,” he said. “If all goes well, on or about October 1, we will deliver the bonds and receive the money to go forward. Within thirty days of closing the bond sale, we will file a debt report with the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF), showing the obligation of the library to repay the bonds over the course of the 16-year term. I want to emphasize again that this is an obligation of the library, not the County, that the funds for the repayment are already part of our budget, just as they have been for the one we are retiring, and that there will be no change either to the budgeting process of the library or the County, and that no additional tax revenue will be needed. We’ve planned for this for years, and I am so, so happy that this is coming to fruition as planned.”

Once that process is completed, the board can turn its attention to the construction phase.

“Our current timeline indicates that we will get construction bids in December,” Coffin said. “What those bids will cover, in precise detail, is still to be determined. With the Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant off the table, our architect, Stair and Associates, has been working on the best way to do the most we can. That’s okay, as we always regarded any OCRA monies as icing, not the cake. We will lose some square footage, but I understand that there have been some creative solutions proposed for multi-use areas. We have not seen new drawings yet, though we hope to have some soon, and our next meetings with designer Martin Truesdell will include some more detailed proposals for interior spaces.”

So while nothing “visible” is happening at the moment, Coffin emphasized the groundwork is “getting thoroughly done, and 2016 is going to be a year when a true transformation takes place.”

“I think every resident of Owen County will be proud of what we accomplish, how economically we accomplish it, and how much service we will be able to provide as a result of the efforts of our board, our advisors and architects, and our staff, who have given so much useful input, and who are as excited and proud to be part of this worthwhile effort as I am,” he added. “I also want to point especially to Director Rogers, who faces an immense amount of work associated with this project that is not part of the normal workload of a library director. We think we did well in hiring her, and we think she’s doing a good job.”

Plans are to expand the building to the east, which will eliminate employee parking and providing a completely new open floor layout. The library’s current square footage of 17,366 will increase by 6,000 square feet on the ground floor and 1,800 on the second floor. Another major issue to be addressed is the elimination of guttering within the building’s facade.

The library’s basement area currently serves a multitude of purposes, from housing the work of the Friends of the Owen County Public Library to organize book sales, to office space for the adult programmer, the technology department and book mobile, and as a staff work area to prepare new materials and a meeting space for the library board.

The library’s server room will also see a major expansion, with a larger space required to house a much-needed server upgrade. Inside the current server room, staff are constantly battling a leaking air conditioner and condensation.

A variety of spaces such as closets, coat rack areas and more have been converted into offices for staff to work out of. Areas are also being considered for a relocation of the technology department.

The upstairs would include an expanded space for young adults and teenagers. Additional space would also be available for students to work on homework and projects.

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