City considers new library, bond issues

by Danny Brown
Published February 21, 2008

Tuesday, the city began a new chapter in its two-year Facility Strategic Plan odyssey to improve municipal buildings. Proposed is a new library costing approximately $45 million.
“Right now the intention is to move forward with public discussion on the project,” explained City Manager Geoff Dolan.

City Council’s decision to focus on a library was guided by community survey results, which the Lew Edwards Group collected at the end of 2007. The 20- to 30-minute phone poll asked 500 residents to rank their preference in improving city facilities on a four-tier scale of “Extremely Important” to “Not Too Important.”

A 2005-2007 study known as the Facility Strategic Plan drafted a rough map of the city’s future building improvements for residents to consider.

Sharon Pinkerton of the Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates Opinion Research and Public Policy Analysis firm said the survey listed improving the city’s library as a top priority among residents, with 60 percent willing to support a bond measure to replace and improve the facility. The library could either be rebuilt, moved to Live Oak Park or the Joslyen Center.

Among other facility projects residents listed as top priorities include classroom space for park and recreation classes, a teen center, and an indoor pool with joint use with Manhattan Beach schools. Among the bottom priorities were a gymnasium, a skate park, and a small community theater.

Pinkerton added that support for the library increased once residents were given information about its current inadequacies.

While the city’s library is one of the ten most used libraries in LA County and checks out between 22,000 and 28,000 books and materials every month, it is vastly undersized and under-stocked according to national library standards. Additionally, the old building being is considered to be too small for the number of community members it serves, it is not up to fire and health safety standards.

A second phone poll of about 400 citizens asked residents to rank the importance of hypothetical components of a new library. It showed that building standards are a high concern.
Another concern was cost.

“Right now it’s too early to be talking about costs,” said Mayor Jim Aldinger. “We should focus on what we want from a new library and what services we want it to provide our community. When you start talking about money you lose sight of what we should be talking about.”

Having spent time dealing with community members in over 80 Facility Strategic Plan meetings as part of a council-representative steering committee, Councilmembers Portia Cohen and Richard Montgomery said cost is going to be one of the first components people will want to know before making a decision.

Based on findings from the Facility Strategic Plan report, the cost of a new library is estimated at $45 million. The report also shows that renovation of the old library is unacceptable.
To cover expenses, council discussed putting a General Obligation Bond on the November 2008 ballot, which is expected to have a high voter turn-out because of the presidential election. Councilmember Nick Tell approximated the financial burden of the bond will be about $2 a month for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

The Manhattan Beach School Board is also a considering placing either a bond or parcel tax on the same ballot to deal with next year’s projected state budget cuts.

“We need to coordinate our efforts with the school board so our budget issues don’t wind up competing against one another,” said Tell.

The city manager said council has some time to make a decision and gather community input as the deadline to put anything on the November ballot is sometime between June and July.
Leading up to that date, the city will begin a campaign to educate the public about the issue. ER