Gilroy struggles for new library funds

GILROY
– City officials and library supporters – anxiously awaiting
news about a major grant that would help fund a new and improved
Gilroy library – will have to wait at least another month to find
out if they’ve hit the jackpot.
GILROY – City officials and library supporters – anxiously awaiting news about a major grant that would help fund a new and improved Gilroy library – will have to wait at least another month to find out if they’ve hit the jackpot.

Meanwhile, the delay by state authorities – plus some new requirements – likely means start of construction on the new 52,600-square-foot building will be moved back at least a few months if the city lands the grant, according to city officials.

At the moment, Gilroy’s hopes for funding much of the $18.4-million facility hinge on an $11.4-million grant application to the state. While the state was originally due to announce a first round of winners this month, city officials recently learned that the decision on a first round of funding by the six-member California Public Library Construction and Renovation Board has been delayed until Dec. 2.

Proposition 14, passed by voters in 2000, authorized the state to use bonds for public library construction. Besides Gilroy, at least 55 communities are asking for a share of the resulting $350-million pot of state funding that will be doled out in three phases – including Morgan Hill, where officials hope to land roughly $13 million for their own new library.

“Apparently, there’s going to be a significant amount of additional review because of the large amount of grants submitted,” said Bill Headly, Gilroy’s facilities and parks development manager on Monday.

Mayor Tom Springer said Monday that the city is still confident in its grant application. Nevertheless, officials have scheduled a discussion at the City Council’s Nov. 4 meeting to provide an update on the delay and discuss strategy.

“We think we have a very good package,” Springer said. “The community need is very demonstrable.”

City officials have pointed out that the square-foot-per-person ratio at Gilroy’s current 12,800-square-foot facility is among the worst in the county.

Gilroy has tripled in population since the city’s existing library was constructed in 1975, and has at least doubled its collection size, according to city officials.

Although city Librarian Lani Yoshimura was unavailable for comment, she has told The Dispatch that the library currently has nearly 133,000 items in a space designed for a maximum of 80,000 items. Librarians have had to eliminate almost 40 percent of the facility’s seats to make way for more volumes.

Springer said Monday that Gilroy also has an advantage in the grant process because the city has agreed to fund a portion of the construction.

Thirty-five percent of the overall cost for the new library will come from local sources. Up to $2 million of the $6 million local “match” could come through the county; with the rest would be funded through impact fees on new development in the city.

“We’re putting up additional funding as a match, and they like to see that,” Springer said. “Sacramento is doing more and more funding based on matching, what local communities are putting up.”

Also positive for Gilroy is its facility’s status as a “joint-use” library, meaning it works with the local school district to share resources. The state puts emphasis on joint-use applications, although the majority of the grant applicants fit in this category.

While some Morgan Hill officials have recently called for that city’s residents to begin an active letter campaign to the state backing their application, Springer said no such effort has begun here – yet – because the state’s decision is theoretically supposed to be immune from political or community pressure.

“We’ve not initiated a letter campaign because we see the process as one based on the submittal of an application without a lot of outside community pressure,” he said. “If communities only have to have a well-drafted letter campaign – even for bad proposals – then something’s wrong with the process.”

Council approved a preliminary design presented by Los Angeles firm Fields Devereaux for the two-story, expanded facility in December after a series of six community design workshops.

City officials have said previously that construction could begin as early as next spring if the city wins the award. However, the delayed decision – and some additional review by the state once the decision is made – will likely push out that timeline at least a few months, Headly said.

Once the awards are announced and the grants authorized, the state’s library office will want to review the city’s construction documents plans, Headly said – a process that could add several months to the timeline. He hopes to begin construction by the end of next year at the latest if the city lands the grant.

“All that adds up and gets thrown into the timeline,” he said. “We’ll move on it as fast as the process allows us to.”

The city and county will have find a location to temporarily move the library while construction is underway, Headly noted – a cost the grant will not fund. The public is invited to submit ideas or helpful information on that front at any time, he said.

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