Library District looks ahead at new funding, new library and a new agreement with county
By Katherine Nettles
Gunnison County staff is working closely with the Gunnison County Library District on its future outlook since voters passed a ballot measure to provide an independent source of funding. 6A passed by a large margin, raising property taxes by 1.9 mills beginning in 2020. The district will use this funding stream for its plans to build a new library in Gunnison and to expand its collections and programming at both ends of the valley as well.
First update: A new IGA
The library district and county commissioners approved a new intergovernmental agreement (IGA) this fall regarding how the county will work with and support the district going forward.
The county will provide the Library District funding for administration and support services such as contract negotiations for the new Gunnison Library, and will secure financing for the portion of the new library’s construction that is not covered by the Library District.
The Library District will fund the planning for the new library; will apply the principle gift of the Van Tuyl estate in the amount of $900,000 to the new building’s construction; and will convey the Van Tuyl property to the county to secure financing for its construction.
The county will provide a lease agreement for the new library, and will then transfer it back to the district once the Library District pays all debts on the library’s construction.
The county will continue appointing trustees to the Library District, and the Library District will continue to operate, provide and maintain public library services for Gunnison County residents. Both parties agreed that the Library District would participate in the county’s annual budgeting process.
“We are making sure this partnership is defined and clear to future library staff and the public,” said Library District executive director Drew Brookhart. County attorney David Baumgarten confirmed that county manager Matthew Birnie and attorneys of both parties crafted the updated document.
North Valley considerations
Brookhart says the most immediate changes to library services due to the increased operations funding will be an increased access to electronic content and programs such as summer reading, events, author visits and community partnerships. The eventual increase in shelf space from Gunnison’s new library will mean that a larger overall collection of items becomes accessible to the Old Rock Library in Crested Butte, too. The same-day delivery services will continue across the district.
The district plans to add two new positions in the next couple of years as well, says Brookhart. One will be dedicated to young adult services and programming; the other will be for expanded children’s programming. The library district has an established practice that all employees within the district work at both locations within the valley, and Brookhart says he expects that to continue.
Gunnison’s new library on the books
Brookhart met with county commissioners on November 12 to present the initial design plans for the new library on the Van Tuyl property in Gunnison and to discuss the overall process of managing the joint capital project with the county. The Library District is taking the lead on its own design, “but we need to take a decision making role since the BOCC will hold the debt on the building,” said Birnie.
The firm of Anderson Hallas Architects of Golden has created the conceptual design for the new library on behalf of the Library District, and principal Wells Squier attended the meeting to show some of his plans. He said the firm has identified programmatic elements such as reading areas and collections for adults, young adults and young children and a multipurpose component to allow for flexible use.
Squier said they are looking at taking both the urban interface of the property to one side and the vistas and views along the western edge of the property to capitalize on a dynamic location. He described how the building will have an urban attitude on one side, using simple redwood and concrete, while protecting against the busy intersection on the southeast corner. Trail access and outdoor areas to the west will “draw the outside in” on the southwestern side for educational outdoor areas, bike racks and even whimsical dog leash mounts. The design emphasizes a strong pedestrian and bicycle approach to the property.
“We want this to be fun and playful,” he said.
The project leaders are ready to put out requests for qualifications and proposals soon.
Independent project consultant Mike Mismash with MJM Project Consulting, who has worked previously on most big county projects over the last decade, is overseeing this project as well. He said he will connect the project’s various contracts using the county’s established practices.
“We want a coordinated process,” said Mismash.
Project leaders are hoping to get a contract signed in April for the contractor, with groundbreaking in 2021. Then the construction will probably span a year. County commissioner John Messner asked about memorializing the building in honor of Van Tuyl, who donated the property and contributed significantly to the community at large. Brookhart said the library board discussed that, and considers honoring Van Tuyl a must-have. It may come in the form of a major programmatic area, a sculpture or something else. Brookhart said he also expects other donors to come forward in the coming months, and they will also be recognized.
The full conceptual design documents can be found at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1h_ClipXM5np8b3CTD9Njj0xL2YBqLj1U/view.