The Milwaukie City Council last week decided to ask voters whether to issue up to $9.2 million in general obligation bonds for library improvements.

If approved at the May 17 election, property taxpayers will see an increase of $62 annually for 20 years on the average $175,000 home (35 cents per $1,000 of assessed value) to pay for capital costs for library construction, technology upgrades and finance-issuance costs.

Prior to the city councilors’ unanimous Feb. 16 vote to refer the measure to voters, they spoke about how Ledding Library is much more than just a place to house books, DVDs and other materials to check out. Milwaukie’s library serves as a community meeting site, as an after-school educational facility, and as a resource for researchers and employment seekers.

“The library is the heart of the community,” Churchill said. “There’s no more important project out there in the city right now than the library expansion on the Ledding Library site.”

Milwaukie’s population has grown from 12,000 to more than 20,500 since Dec. 16, 1964, when the 11,800-square-foot Ledding Library was dedicated.

Unlike a previous Gladstone City Council and city administrator who spent $1.2 million on plans for the Webster Road library, a project that is no longer on the table, Milwaukie’s library planning won’t start in earnest until after the election.

Beginning last fall, Milwaukie retained ProspectPDX and its subconsultant, Patinkin Research Strategies, with polling and an extensive survey that reached more than 700 people. They will also be working with the city through the May election on the community outreach and “Get the Facts” materials. The total contract amount for these services is $57,200, and initial architectural renderings have been done at no cost to the city.

City officials have promised robust public-involvement opportunities in the library-design process, although certain parameters already have been identified.

If the measure passes, the existing Ledding building would be renovated, and a two-story 13,000-square-foot addition would expand the building to the north. A more prominent entry porch and lobby would be relocated to where the old and new portions of the building meet. The interior of the Pond House would be heavily renovated to increase its capacity for meetings and literary readings.

Milwaukie’s expanded/renovated library would feature a larger designated area for children/teen programming, security cameras around the building’s exterior, modern restroom facilities, updated wiring, more computers, replacement energy- efficient heating and cooling systems, and structural components to meet city earthquake standards.

Polls show about 60 percent support for the bond measure, and 72 percent of Milwaukie voters authorized the Clackamas County library district in 2008. However, Councilor Karin Power said that library advocates should not be idle in their advocacy, expecting the measure to pass.

“There’s a lot of work to do in articulating why now, why $9.2 million, and how are all of the different funding layers coming into play here,” Power said.

To benefit the project, Friends of the Ledding Library is planning a native plant sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, at the library’s fountain. This year’s theme “Cascara: Rhamnus purshiana,” the Latin name for a species of buckthorn native to the Pacific Northwest, is a farewell to plant conservationist Aulani Johnson.

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