LOUISBURG — Louisburg Library District No. 1 board members continue to look at options for a new library, and they soon will be seeking input from the community.
The board members met Thursday, June 27, for their monthly meeting and continued their discussion about options for a new library. It’s an ongoing discussion that prompted several community members to attend the board’s May meeting, filling the library’s conference room.
During that meeting, former state senator and Louisburg resident and business owner Pat Apple spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Apple said he’s concerned the library board is considering pursuing a lease-purchase agreement, which would allow the board to increase the library district’s mill levy and construct a new library without first getting approval from voters.
The library district is its own taxing entity, and the mill levy is the rate in which it collects property tax revenue.
Voters previously have shot down two library bond proposals that would have allowed the district to construct a new building on property already owned by the library on Harvest Drive near Louisburg High School and the water tower.
In 2008, the bond proposal was $6.9 million for 29,000 square feet. The issue failed by 158 votes.
In 2015, the bond proposal was $4.25 million for 18,500 square feet. The issue failed by 104 votes.
The library currently is located downtown at 206 S. Broadway St., but staff members have reported a variety of issues, including flooding and space limitations.
Some of the visitors who attended the May board meeting were back for the June 27 meeting, including Apple.
During the meeting, the board members discussed another possible new home for the library — the vacant strip mall located on Harvest Drive near the U.S. Post Office.
Tom Morrisey, who was a visitor during the May meeting, suggested during public comment that the library district purchase the vacant building, and board president Devin Cooley said it is worth looking into.
Cooley said the location would propose some issues, including previous reports of flooding and the fact that it is not downtown. Library Director Kiersten Allen also said it is currently zoned for multiple commercial storefronts and would require heavy renovation.
Cooley suggested creating a webpage that lists the pros and cons of the different proposed options, which include renovating the current downtown location, constructing a new building on the library-owned property near the high school, purchasing the vacant strip mall building on Harvest Drive and utilizing city-owned land on Mulberry Street where the current Louisburg Farmers Market is located.
Cooley also suggested creating a timeline to post on the website that gives residents background of how the library got to where it is today.
Allen also said during the May meeting that she could put together a website poll asking patrons if they favor the lease-purchase or bond issue option, or if they would prefer no action.
“Ultimately, we’re not going to get support from the community until we hear from them,” Cooley said.
The board members know a website poll won’t reach everyone, though, so they agreed at the June meeting to move forward with plans to create a fact sheet and mail it to all district residents, similar to what the library sent out for its Summer Bash activities.
Cooley said there is a lot of misinformation being spread throughout the community, and he thinks a fact sheet would help clarify things. It could list a number of facts, including the fact that Louisburg Library was the first library district in the state of Kansas, and a reminder that the library is its own taxing entity and not owned by the city.
Allen said it likely would cost $2,000 to $3,000 to mail the fact sheet to all of the district’s residents.
She also recommended utilizing the resources of the Northeast Kansas Library System (NEKLS). The group can provide architectural assistance utilizing Sabatini Architects of Lawrence in which the first $2,800 is paid for, after which the library district would pick up the cost.
Allen said the architectural firm could serve as a consultant, providing help with feasibility studies and drafting requests for qualifications or proposals.
The board members agreed to seek help from NEKLS, with the end goal being to present a poll to the community with detailed options and pricing information.
Also during the meeting, the board approved a letter of engagement with the Lathrop Gage law firm in Kansas City, Mo., to represent the library as needed in any item related to the new library. Allen said the hourly rate for the legal counsel is $325 to $375 for lawyers, but they will only be called upon if needed.
Cooley said during the May meeting that it is the bond counsel’s recommendation to no more than double the amount of the library district’s existing mill levy of 5.326 in order to fund the construction of a new library.