Coun­cil signs off on li­brary money

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - STACY RYBURN

FAYET­TEVILLE — The City Coun­cil on Tues­day put in the fi­nal piece of the fi­nan­cial puz­zle for the li­brary’s ex­pan­sion.

Coun­cil mem­bers voted 6-0 to spend $26.9 mil­lion gen­er­ated from a voter-ap­proved bond is­sue to­ward build­ing an 80,000-square­foot ex­pan­sion. The bonds sold for slightly more than the ini­tially pro­jected $26.5 mil­lion.

Al­der­men Justin Ten­nant and Sarah Marsh weren’t present.

The money will help pay for the pro­posed $49 mil­lion ex­pan­sion with the rest com­ing from pri­vate do­na­tions. Plans call for adding space to meet, study and col­lab­o­rate, a stand­alone ge­neal­ogy and lo­cal history space, a mul­ti­pur­pose cen­ter and dou­bling the size of youth ser­vices and the num­ber of cov­ered park­ing spa­ces from 220 to 443.

“This is the fi­nal step,” the city’s Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Paul Becker said.

The li­brary board last week signed a $3.7 mil­lion con­tract with ar­chi­tect Meyer, Scherer & Rock­cas­tle, the same de­sign­ers of the li­brary. The coun­cil

will de­cide whether to fi­nal­ize the deal dur­ing its next meet­ing. Con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tion is un­der­way with Cross­land Con­struc­tion to build the ex­pan­sion and de­mol­ish the old City Hos­pi­tal build­ing nearby.

A sep­a­rate com­pany will fol­low an as­bestos abate­ment plan first. A por­tion of Rock Street also has to be va­cated.

Li­brary Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor David John­son said he’d like to see the land ready to build on by Jan­uary.

“We are as fully en­gaged with the city in all of its ca­pac­i­ties as we can be,” he said. “We don’t want there to be any de­lays be­cause we didn’t do our home­work and didn’t talk to the right peo­ple.”

Soon the ar­chi­tects will host pub­lic in­put ses­sions to pin­point ex­actly what res­i­dents want to see with their li­brary ex­pan­sion. No dates have been set.

The plan to ex­pand had to over­come two ma­jor hur­dles. Vot­ers ap­proved a mill­age in­crease in Au­gust and the li­brary won a four-year-long court bat­tle over the ad­ja­cent City Hos­pi­tal land in March.

Mayor Lioneld Jor­dan took a mo­ment to re­flect on the jour­ney to dou­ble the li­brary’s size and add to its ser­vices.

“This is a great mo­ment for the city,” he said. “It truly is.” Stacy Ryburn can be reached by email at sry­ or on Twit­ter @sta­cyry­burn.

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