ESCONDIDO — The city has spent more than $188,000 on conceptual designs for the Escondido Public Library.
The library is more than 35 years old and continues to service Escondido, with a population that has more than doubled, from 64,000 to 147,000, since the library’s opening in 1980.
It’s due for an upgrade and city staff believes it’s inadequate to meet the current needs.
“Since 1980, community uses of the library have changed.
The number and types of programs held have grown and technology has evolved all making the current library inadequate to meet the information, education and user space needs of an expanded community,” Director of Library and Community Services Loretta McKinney said.
Group 4 Architecture, Research + Planning, Inc. drew up plans to modernize the library in 2013 and estimated the modernization of the library would cost between $36 million and $42 million.
Currently, the city has about $300,000 allocated for the library expansion and the Escondido Library Foundation has raised about $492,000.
On Aug.19, the city gave direction to explore a General Obligation bond to fund the project.
The general obligation bond is favorable because it is the least expensive method to incur a large debt over a long period of time, according to McKinney.
The bond would likely finance the entire project although there is one huge hurdle.
The bond would require two thirds of voter approval because it would be generated from local revenue sources like sales or property taxes.
The other options presented to the council would delay the modernization further and each year the city waits, the cost rises $1 million according to the staff report.
City Manager Clay Phillips advised the council that a bond measure was the only viable option.
“If you want to make a decision and move forward, the only viable alternative I see in front of you to do quickly is the general obligation bond,” Phillips said.
Deputy Mayor Mike Morasco agreed.
“It is really the only viable option we have to doing it in an expedited fashion,” he said.
Mayor Sam Abed was skeptical of the bond passing.
“I believe we have a big challenge right now to pass a bond in 2016,” Abed said.
He asked staff to hire a non-partial polling company to learn if residents would be willing to pass the bond in 2016.
“If we are within 5 or 10 (percentage) points, I think we should go for it,” Abed said.
“We need to do that polling. We need to have a good chance to win it.”
The council acknowledged that doing nothing was not an option.
Councilmember Olga Diaz stressed the importance of a modern library in the community.
“I recognize that in Escondido, to have a new library that has all of the modern resources that our population needs is the best way that we, through city government, can support our higher education goals for our community,” said Diaz.
The council also directed staff to explore private funding partnerships for the site.
Another option the council rejected was seeking grant funding because the Escondido Public Library has been passed over in the city’s past attempts to secure state funding.
Staff will present the poll findings to the council in January, which will give the council enough time to get the bond on the ballot in 2016, if the poll results indicate Escondido resident’s support.