Choked up with emotion, the Library Board chair called Soldotna's decision to purchase land for a planned expansion of the city's public library "a testament to nearly two years of persistence."
Dick Hahn, chair of the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library board, said the board and Friends of the Library are "truly indebted to you all," referring to the mayor and the Soldotna City Council.
The council, on Wednesday, appropriated $325,000 to purchase land north of the public library on Binkley Street to facilitate expansion of the library.
An architect earlier hired by the city recommended additional land be purchased if the city intended to expand the library to meet the long-term demand for library services.
The land determined to be the most suited to the need is a 1.417-acre parcel owned by Dr. Lavern Davidhizar, immediately north of and adjacent to the existing library site.
After the Friends of the Library arranged for an appraisal of the property by Derry and Associates, Davidhizar agreed to sell to the city.
At the council meeting, City Manager Larry Semmens said "the sellers executed an earnest money agreement," and he planned to sign purchase closing documents at the title company office Thursday.
Several members of the library board and the Friends of the Library organization applauded the council approval Wednesday night.
"We're bursting at the seams," said library employee Jeanete Pedginski. "I support this expansion."
Board member Sharon Sleater said, "The role of the library is no longer just a repository for books. It's become a meeting place, a city center. It is our future."
Hahn said what some people do not realize is that the cost of the Davidhizar property "is tiny compared to what it would cost if we had to move the library" to an alternate site within the city to accommodate the expansion.
The only person voicing opposition to the purchase Wednesday was Fred Sturman, who said, "We keep taking property off the (tax) rolls. I think we can do OK over there without more parking."
Mayor Peter Micciche agreed with Sleater that the library has become the heart of the city, adding a municipal library is an "essential service" the city cannot do without.
A needs analysis last year showed the existing 8,000 square-foot library needs to be expanded to 15,824 to serve Soldotna's current population, and should be at 17,774 square feet to meet the projected 2020 needs.
In October 2008, a Kenai architect estimated the cost of doubling the size of the library at around $12 million.
The entrance and the rest rooms are too small and do not comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, he said.
Furthermore, book collections are limited due to lack of shelf space, the aisles between the book shelves don't comply with ADA and there is a lack of seating, tables and computer stations.
The architect also said the library needs a dedicated space for teen programs, and lacks sufficient meeting rooms.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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