Soldotna City Council members emerged from an uncharacteristically brief executive session last week, giving the city manager the green light to negotiate the purchase of land to accommodate an expansion of the city's public library.
The city has been studying a possible expansion of the Joyce K. Carver Municipal Library, but the need for additional parking an expansion would create has posed a bit of a roadblock.
City Manager Larry Semmens said the owners of land immediately north of the library on Binkley Street have made it known that they would be willing to sell the land to the city.
"I talked to (Dr.) Lavern Davidhizar, and he is interested in selling the land for the library expansion," Semmens said during last week's council meeting.
Councilwoman Betty Obendorf made a motion that the council move into executive session to discuss parameters of an offer, and after less than 10 minutes, the group reconvened the public meeting, with Obendorf moving "to authorize the city manager to submit an offer and negotiate the purchase of the property adjacent to the library."
Her motion was approved unanimously.
One Soldotna resident in attendance at the council meeting objected.
"You guys are buying up all this private land and taking it off the tax rolls," said Fred Sturman. "How many can we keep takin' off?
"What you need to do is make the library smaller," Sturman said, adding that most people have computers today and can get the information they seek on the Internet.
"Shrink the building; forget the property; and keep it on the tax rolls," Sturman said.
Councilman Ed Sleater offered to provide Sturman with reports of actual library usage, showing the amount of activity there continues going up, not down.
A recent needs analysis 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, a Kenai architect estimated the cost of doubling the size of the library at around $12 million.
The current size of the library facility is limiting the staff's ability to meet the demand for services, the architect said.
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.
He also said the library needs a dedicated space for teen programs, and lacks sufficient meeting rooms.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at email@example.com.
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