Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Butler townships weigh
library need vs. cost

By Jennifer Edwards jedwards@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LIBERTY TWP. - Leaders in Liberty and West Chester townships say they know residents want a new library and bigger book selection - the question now is: Are people willing to pay for it?

        Trustees in the two townships agree the current library on Cox Road, just south of Tylersville Road, is too small to continue serving the 78,000 residents of the two communities.

        But some trustees say a proposed 100,000-square-foot library is too luxurious and they don't want to further tax residents until they know if they will support it.

        In their first meeting together to discuss a new library that was proposed earlier this summer, West Chester and Liberty trustees on Monday agreed that before they decide whether to ask voters to pay for the new $15 million library, more information is needed.

        They asked Middletown Public Library officials, who also attended the meeting, to randomly poll voters next year as to whether they would support paying for a new library.

        “Right now I'm not really sure we have a sense of how people would take the expense of it,” West Chester Township Trustee President Jose Alvarez said.

        The current 15,000-square- foot library was built in 1983, has expanded twice to accommodate the growing population of both communities, and has no more room to expand, according to library officials.

        They have proposed building a state-of-the-art facility, possibly at the Voice of America Park in West Chester on the southeast corner of Hamilton-Mason and Cox roads.

        Preliminary estimates show that a 1.39-mill tax levy for construction and library operations would generate about $2.6 million a year.

        Library officials had hoped to have a levy on the ballot in November for the new library, but it is too late now to place the issue on the fall ballot. The soonest it could go to voters would be next year, possibly in fall 2003, trustees said Monday.

        A survey the library conducted showed that the 1,599 residents who responded overwhelmingly want a new library and larger book selection.

        But some trustees gently chided library officials for not asking residents at that time whether they would pay for the facility.

        “There wasn't an out-and-out question, "Do you want it to be eight times bigger?”' Mr. Alvarez said. “It didn't jump out to me that people were willing to jump up on a table and scream that they wanted a library eight times bigger and were willing to pay for it.”

        A resident who attended Monday's meeting said he was relieved elected leaders were cautiously proceeding on the issue. Allen Baxter of West Chester said library officials pushed too fast for the facility.

        “I'm encouraged they're not going to jump into it because I hear that giant sucking sound,” Mr. Baxter said. “West Chester residents are tired of that sucking sound.”


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