The Calloway County Library Board is moving to apply for state grants towards a new $6.4M library.
The board held a special meeting Monday night to meet a deadline for submitting an application to the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives Wednesday, just before the next scheduled meeting.
The public was invited to review and discuss two options drafted by Louisville-based 5253 Design Group: a 27,000 sq. ft. 'Essential' option and a 35,000 sq. ft. 'Enhanced' option. A third option was considered, but recent pressure to avoid higher-cost estimates prompted the board to move it aside. Judge-Executive Larry Elkins has previously stated that "under no circumstances" would he support a library project exceeding $4M.
Of the various comments from the public, ADA accessibility and investing in the community's future were common themes.
After discussion, the board chose a compromise of the two options: a 28,000 sq. ft. facility coming in at a completed project cost of $6.4M.
Board President Ryan Alessi says last night's action was more of a commitment of intention towards a new library, rather than a final decision.
“Considering that this building hasn’t been altered in 40 years, this is an investment of decades," said Alessi. "I personally as a board member feel like we do need to do as much as possible, not more than we can afford but certainly no less than this county deserves.”
Calloway’s current library facility is little more than 12,000 sq. ft. and ranks low amongst Kentucky's 120 counties in terms of library square feet per capita. Population estimates also deem it inadequate to support the county’s projected growth at .072%. Calloway County census in 2014 noted 38,282 residents.
Lawyer and board trustee Ricky Lamkin cast the lone abstention to the vote after voicing concerns over the "lack of vision" towards considering other, perhaps more suitable, locations as well as the cost on the public.
“Borrowing $4 million is a lot of money on public money, who knows what’s gonna happen next and I’m very concerned about locking in on that," said Lamkin. "When everything is yes, yes, yes, yes, it’s very hard to say no.”
Lamkin says he's overall in favor of an improved library, but doesn't want to see it become a financial burden on the public for decades to come.
"I thought we should have a local architect, I saw no reason we had to get someone out of Louisville. We’re paying for him to drive," said Lamkin. "We’ve got an architect in Murray and Mayfield, both of whom have been involved in libraries. But that’s not the way it worked, they’re not part of the ‘administration’ so to speak.”
The five-member library board is also operating with four members. Judge-Executive Elkins was presented with candidates in May but has yet to make an appointment, disagreeing with the board's own candidate selection process.
Alessi, who is moving away from Murray, says he will stay on until Elkins appoints a successor.
"I will stay here, as far as I know there is no legal prohibition to that," said Alessi. "But I certainly hope that for the future of this community, there are four great candidates put before the judge to consider and I hope he considers and names two new board members."
Though the library has put aside some funds and intends to borrow, Alessi says future meetings will explore how to finance the project. The next meeting is Wednesday at 4:30pm.