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New library in budget

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 21/05) - The city took another step closer to building a new library Monday night, after council voted to include design plans for it in next year's budget.

The budget already sets aside $500,000 to continue planning and construction of a civic plaza and Somba K'e Park extension at the old Gerry Murphy Arena site on Veteran's Memorial Drive, but one city councillor has won support from colleagues to have the plans include a library.

"The planning and accommodation for that will be done right away," said Coun. Alan Woytuik.

"Financing of the library itself is yet to be determined."

Woytuik convinced councillors to support a motion earlier this month to include a library into plans for the vacant site, which may also see the construction of an amphitheatre, bandstand, and fountain.

Last week, an administration official warned council that the city may not have enough money to pay for operations and maintenance of a number of existing and prospective facilities because not enough revenue is being raised through taxes to pay for them all.

Woytuik said he is isn't worried.

"We're already paying operating costs on the (existing) library so it's just a matter of transferring those costs," said Woytuik.

"There might be a slight increase because it's a standalone facility, but it shouldn't be that drastic."

Woytuik said he would like to see work on the library begin by the end of the summer.

The existing library on the second floor of Centre Square Mall has become a sore point for councillors and residents alike. Past complaints range from the library being difficult for new residents to find, and that the space is stuffy and doesn't have enough windows.

A citizens group, called Friends of the Yellowknife Public Library, even formed to lobby for a new home.

President Kevin Kennedy said the group would be "thrilled" to have a library built at the Gerry Murphy site.

"I'm very happy to hear that, and I think council is doing the right thing.

"It seems to me to be a no-brainer."

One thing council will have to consider is what to do with the city-owned property at Centre Square once the library leaves for its new digs.

The city is already having trouble finding an occupant for some commercial space next door, which has been largely empty since the Canadian Firearms Centre moved out two years ago.

Centre Square may also have another large vacancy to fill should the Workers' Compensation Board fulfil its desire to move out.

Coun. Dave McCann said he doesn't think it will be that hard to sell the property.

"We have a relatively strong projected economic activity in town," said McCann.