The concept for a new library and community center dubbed as a “one-building solution” was unveiled Monday to the Belgrade City Council, which now must decide whether to go to voters in September to ask for a $14 million bond issue to pay for it.

To keep costs down, the most recent iteration of the plan is a scaled-back version of the project originally envisioned.

“The size of the project has been reduced considerably from what was originally conceived,” City Manager Ted Barkley told the council. “A month ago, it was 38,000 square feet. Today what you’re going to see is 28,000 square feet. I think we were able to reduce that size and keep it fully functional and efficient.”

Barkley briefly described the evolution of the proposal over the past few years. Originally the city considered expanding the current library facility at its location on the City Hall campus but then shifted to the idea of building a new library somewhere in town. When Central Valley Fire District vacated the old fire station on Main Street, the city-owned lot where it sits adjacent to Lewis and Clark Park was identified as the preferred location for a new library.

At that point, an idea was born to also add a community center to the complex.

“Both of those elements – building new and adding the community center pieces – affected the design and size of the building,” Barkley said.

Ali Vasarella of 45 Architecture presented the current plan to the council, describing the proposed facility as “an icon as you come into Belgrade.”

“It will the first thing you see as you’re entering the downtown area,” she said. “We want it to represent Belgrade as a whole.”

While noting the design is still preliminary, Vasarella described many of its components, including:

n Drive-up book drop-off and pickup window.

n Separate areas that will be available for community use outside of regular library hours.

n A café.

n Outdoor reading area.

n Meeting rooms to accommodate large and small groups, including large events that would be catered. Ideally the rooms could be physically opened up to the park.

  • Study rooms for adults and youth.
  • Upstairs adult library.
  • A historic room.
  • A community room where City Council meetings would be held, equipped with screens, a podium, and audio-visual equipment.
  • Potential sunroom.

Barkley said that that if the council decides to put the bond issue on the ballot, voters would be asked to finance $14 million of the $16.1 million project cost.

He devoted a portion of Monday’s discussion explaining how the project would solve other needs of the city. The “one-building solution” would allow the police department – which has outgrown its space upstairs in City Hall – to move into the current library. That, in turn, would make room to accommodate the additional needs of other city departments that have also outgrown their spaces.

A document given to the council states, “The City has tentatively set aside money for remodeling (the old library) and would not need to ask taxpayers for more taxes.

“The result would be a net gain of about 11,000 square feet for the rest of the City offices, at a savings of about 5 million dollars, not including any property acquisition.”

Barkley said the scale of the proposal was reduced for cost reasons.

“We all know what’s happened to the cost of materials and labor over the past three years,” he said. “The good news is that even though labor and materials are more expensive, the cost of borrowing money and issuing a bond is a lot less.”

If it passes, Barkley said the roughly 48 mill bond issue would cost owners of a home with a tax-assessed value of $300,000 about $194 annually.

Barkley added that no public money has been spent on the project to this point, with work to date paid by private gifts and the library foundation.

“A lot of effort has gone into trying to put together something that makes sense for the community,” he said.

Work will continue on design and cost estimates until the proposal is put before the council at its next meeting on June 7. If the bond is to appear on the September ballot, the council will need to make its decision then.

The public is encouraged to weigh in by e-mailing comments to avasarella@45arch.com.