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Council nixes new library

Two-year plan to look at new facility shelved

Darren Stewart
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 18/03) - A plan to move the Yellowknife library into a stand-alone, higher profile building downtown was shelved by city council Monday week because of the costs involved.

Councillors voted 6-1 to rescind an earlier motion to have administration undertake a two-year planning process to develop a new library as a stand-alone facility or as a new shared space with other community facilities. The motion arose from a closed meeting the previous week.

The city will go ahead to spend money set aside in this year's budget to improve the current library facility.

Coun. Kevin O'Reilly, the only member to vote against the motion, said he opposed it because he didn't think council had received enough community input.

"It's still a positive step that we're improving the present facility but my preference would be for a stand-alone facility in the downtown core."

"We've been ready for one for many years."

O'Reilly said he would support new signs for the current library or some street access.

The city commissioned a report by Calgary-based Library Planning Consultants that suggested the cost of building a stand-alone library would be $4.88 million, a cost that would be offset by the sale of the Centre Square location. Maintaining the current library for 20 years would be $4.61 million.

Coun. Dave Ramsey said he opposed moving the library the last time the issue was on the table.

He said the five million dollars the city would spend moving the library would be better spent elsewhere.

"The money we have should go toward making a streetside access," he said. "Taxpayers have enough money invested in the current site and that's the way we should go."

The library is currently housed in the mall and is only accessed by an elevator from within the mall.

Coun. Ben McDonald said the library's lack of profile and street access was a "major shortfall" but he doesn't think that moving it is necessary just yet.

As part of a customer satisfaction survey conducted by the city last year, 89.9 per cent of Yellowknifers said they were satisfied with the library in its current form.

Community services director Grant White said there's money to be spent on the current library in the 2003 budget that must be spent before the end of the fiscal year.

White was unavailable for further comment.

The city began leasing the location in 1991 for $452,000 a year. The plan was to take ownership for $1 but in 1994, Centre Square Developments threatened to declare bankruptcy. City lawyers had not placed a lien on the property and stood to lose millions. The city agreed to lease the library for another three years and bought the location for full price in 1997.

The city is still involved in a suit against the lawyers who failed to include a lien against the property.