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Local News: Astoria City Council votes to explore Library bond measure and grants

Monday night the Astoria City Council voted unanimously to seek funding to renovate the Astoria Library, through a possible bond measure and expedited fundraising

By Joanne Rideout

(Script below; Scroll down to Listen)

At Monday night’s Astoria City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to explore the idea of putting a bond measure on the 2021 ballot, to fund part of the cost of renovating the Astoria Library.

The 3.5 hour meeting featured extensive discussion about how to raise more money for the library and how it should best be spent. The council agreed to make the Astoria Library renovation a priority going forward. Past councils had supported library upgrades and redesign but have declined to vote for a bond measure to fund it. Currently the total cost to renovate the library in a best case scenario would cost about $7 million. The Astoria Library was built in 1967.

Councilor Roger Rocka expressed his enthusiasm for the renovation:

Roger Rocka: “I know the council in the past has voted to not have a bond issued. I have no objection to having a bond issued for it. It gives the community a chance to vote, basically, and say, ‘this is important to us.’”

In the audience were Astoria library foundation members, including former Mayor Arline La Mear, along with other library supporters and staff. LaMear and library board member David Oser gave a presentation to the council.

La Mear said the needs of modern libraries have outpaced the old facility, which among needed upgrades, also needs a new roof and other deferred maintenance. She and Oser said the foundation has worked hard to raise money but needs a commitment from the council before their requests will be taken seriously by large grantors.

Mayor Bruce Jones expressed his support

Bruce Jones: “I feel there is very strong support among the council to find a way to renovate the library. And strong agreement on the council that it’s extremely important that it’s extremly important and beneficial to the community. Obvously there is hesitance, and certainly, let’s go for a bond measure as soon as possible. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is people just got their increased property taxes from the last bond measures. I would like to see us make a commitment to pursue the bond measure sometime after 2020, when research indicates it’s the most prudent time to do so.”

Councilor Jessamyn West was supportive also, but said she was leery of adding another bond measure to the ballot now, when constituents were already seeing tax increases to fund the new jail.

After lengthy discussion and public comment, Councilor Tom Brownson made a motion:

Tom Brownson: “Well, I would like to make a motion to direct city staff to explore a bond measure to be placed on the ballot sometime after the calendar year 2020, and to also look at the possibility of funding a staff member or consultant to look at as far as a paid fundraiser.”

Councilors were optimistic about hiring a professional fundraiser to raise funds to pay for library renovation, with the goal to lower as much as possible the amount that taxpayers might have to fund through a future bond.

I’m Joanne Rideout reporting.