Archive for ◊ March, 2010 ◊

09 Mar 2010 Library, Investment in our community
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Jake Epp Library expansion

The plan is to expand the Jake Epp Library originally built in 1996 with 8,000 sq ft. The plan is to add approx 10,200 sq ft to the building bringing total sq footage to just over 18,000 sq ft

Work is to be started in 2010 with completion in mid 2011. Expansion will take place to the west side of the library moving into the park. Expansion plans include building and additional parking space requirements.

The Jake Epp library has long been the busiest library in Manitoba. Review of the last 7 years indicates that the last 5 years we have the highest circulation at 22.5 books taken out per capita versus the provincial average of 7.7.

Approximately 76% of Steinbach residences hold a library card plus we serve a large surrounding population that pays $75 per household to belong to our library. As heard earlier that number stands at close to 13,000 members.

For the last number of years we have not been able to add books as our shelves are full to overflowing restricting our on shelf books to max out at 65,000.

As an example from June 29 to August 31, 2009 a total of 92,872 books handled by staff in 55 days. That works out to 1,688 books per day handled.

Cost of the expansion is approx $2,850,000. This plan is to provide the funding of this construction through debentures issued to fund the majority of the construction costs. Of these debentures $900,000 has already been approved. Today we are requesting a further $1,900,000 so we can move forward with construction.

This would be the first time in many years that the City of Steinbach is moving away from its policy of borrowing for no more than 5 year time frames. As we all know borrowing costs are at an all time low and will likely not be going down.

It is time to move on this project that has been needed in our community for many years.  The library program is a City program that has been effective in promoting learning and providing an opportunity to explore worlds, theories and concepts in a non threatening environment. The library offers services that enrich our lives, expand our vision and increase our ability to have a positive influence on the world around us. We all agree on the concept of a library and what it does for our community. It is time to move forward and expand the facilities so that we can continue to provide an improved service to our community. If we don’t start this project this year we will not put it back on the table for the next 4 years. With our borrowing costs at an all time low and with a combination 5 and 10 year borrowing plan it is appropriate to move forward with the library expansion project.

It was articulated thru the information from our Board Chair, Jon Sawatzky, all areas that are hampered by lack of space. Our library is and can be more to our community. It is more than books and periodicals. It is a gathering space for our community that is open to everyone. All programs offered by our library staff are full and overflowing with waiting lists for all the programs.

For me this is an investment in our community. Hard infrastructure funding is easy to approve. Hard infrastructure costs are high, like our council our provincial and federal governments see those as important to growth. But it is our responsibility as a council to deal with the softer infrastructure needs within our community like recreation, parks, pathways and the library. These come with a high cost as well, usually in the bricks and mortar of getting the building constructed. Then they go on to provide our residence with an improved quality of life issues that make our community a great place to live.

We have played the waiting game waiting for additional grants to get the library expanded. This addition would have cost less than half the cost if built in 2006. But we waited because of the chance of getting other tax dollars thru our provincial or federal grant programs. Construction costs continue to rise and will continue to do so.   If we wait another year or two until grant monies are available the cost to our community will be the same or higher as those grants, at best, will off set the higher cost of construction.  Libraries have not been high on the political agenda for the Provincial or Federal granting programs.

As a community and as a council we have many priorities. Each of us sees them in a different set of importance. The different opinions and vision for our community is what makes us function as a council and drives the decision making as to what is best for Steinbach. For me, the library is one of our top priorities. Through its services we are a better community; it is still a place that does not have an entry fee at the door. It is a service provided thru the City of Steinbach funded by its taxpayers.

If approved, the cost of construction will not affect the 2010 tax bill that will be coming out in the next couple of months. Currently our mill rate of 14.66, that is a tax increase for projects that will be spent in 2010, including the landfill and lagoon projects. By moving forward with the library expansion doesn’t mean an automatic tax increase, it means shifting priorities within the 2011 – 2021 budgets to accommodate this construction. The mill rate for 2011 will be set in our budget discussions in early summer and later in fall study session.

Again, we need to continue to invest in our community. As with many wants it comes with a price tag. We want to have continued growth of our community facilities like the library are important, as stated earlier I believe that this is a good investment for our community.