Newton City Commission talks library plan

By Adam Strunk

NEWTON—The Newton City Commission received its first look at the concept design for a new library.

What share it’s willing to pay for the estimated $8.5 million project has yet to be sorted out.

The commission saw the initial design concepts for a new library project to be built at Military Park, where the existing library sits.

The design would build a 25,000-square-foot building, featuring tall glass windows to let the light in, high ceilings and 50 parking spaces to sit on park property.

The design includes ideas such as lower shelving heights for improved visibility and browsing, new book displays, various reading and meeting rooms targeted at different ages, as well as a maker space, vending cafe area, lockers for book drop off and pick ups and a fireplace reading area.

The presentation estimated the project’s total cost at $8.5 million.

It also made the case against remodeling the library, showing that the cost of properly remodeling it would be $9.4 million.

At the meeting, the city commission talked about commitments to the project.

Currently, the city has agreed to pay for the architectural design for the library development (phase four of the plan). That number would be around $850,000, according to discussion at the meeting.

The library board would be in charge of phase three of the plan, which would be fundraising.

The city would also pay for the cost of the project, minus the library’s annual contribution, set at $65,000 a year, and whatever amount the group managed to fundraise.

“Let’s say they’re targeting $4 million to raise and we don’t raise that,” Commissioner Rod Kreie said. “Are we committing to pay the shortfall?”

“That’s a detail we’re still needing to work out,” City Attorney Chris Towle responded. “Some of those details need to be worked out.”

Commissioners Clint McBroom and Mayor Leroy Koehn both asked how much the library board would be able to raise for the project.

In both cases, they were told that the answer depended on a feasibility study to be conducted.

“If it’s $8.5 million for the library and fundraising is $2 or $3 million, I don’t know even in September of 2021 we’ll be ready financially to pay off another $5 million,” McBroom said, noting that agreeing to pay for phase four without knowing how much the library could raise amounted to an $850,000 risk to the city if it then couldn’t make up the difference to pay for the project.

Commissioner Richard Stinnett suggested for the city to structure a contract that it would commit to paying for phase four with a positive result from phase three and have the commission determine what a positive amount would be.

Koehn asked if perhaps the city had a set amount it would pay and the fundraising would fall short, the architects could design the project for the funds available.

He asked city staff to create a number of funding scenarios for the project so the commission could see how much it would cost to pay for the project.

Commissioner Kathy Valentine said the city had made a commitment to the projec,t but she, too, had concerns about fundraising.

The commission has a work session coming up Tuesday night in two weeks, where it will discuss the results of a recent survey that outlined residents’ priorities in Newton. Koehn suggested they take up the library discussion during that time period.

If you’d like to see the library design presentation, it’s posted on the City of Newton website.

If you’d like to watch the discussion, it’s posted on the City of Newton’s Facebook page.

Etc.

In other news, Newton’s looking at a community flag. Director of Communications Erin McDaniel said at the regular commission meeting that the idea was McBroom’s. McDaniel said the project would be a short turn around, involve a steering committee, community engagement and kick off on flag day. The commission signed off on the idea 5-0.

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