Highland Library board eyes new capital project

The Highland Library. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The Highland Library. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Highland Public Library officials met with the public last week to discuss their plans to leave 30 Church Street behind. Highland’s Library board outlined a list of problems with the current 2,900-square-foot building. They painted a bleak picture for taxpayers: A leaky roof, lead-based paint on the walls, cracked ceilings and walls, a building all but inaccessible to people in wheelchairs and a structure much too small for what is needed by the library.

“The resources of the library, the technology, what’s available to us has changed dramatically — over what is now decades. What hasn’t changed is the fact that the library still needs to grow — and plans for that growth with the support of our community,” library board president Joanne Loewenthal said.

Back in 2010, Highland Public Library asked voters for support for a different plan to relocate the library. It failed by 91 votes.

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Library board members — most of the current board members weren’t on the board in 2010 — want to learn from the failure three years ago. They’d like to go easy on taxpayers with a project they can support, while also growing the library and its mission.

Currently, the idea is to sell the old building, relocate and build a 9,240-square-foot building with two floors. That could cost $4.4 million, but it would offset by selling the old building.

Loewenthal noted that 30 Church Street is currently assessed at $360,000, but library officials have yet to get the building’s market value investigated.

Library officials met with the public last week in the last of three public forums about the library project. Despite being a repeat presentation, the meeting still drew about 20 people — some of whom have attended multiple forums.

Fundraising will also play a large part in the project, according to library officials. Currently, Highland Public Library is selling T-shirts in support of the capital campaign, but more events will be held during the year.

Grant funding will also be explored.

Loewenthal also told the audience that “despite what you’ve read in the newspaper” a location for the library relocation is not finalized. A number of spots are being located, but they plan to keep a new Highland Public Library within 0.5 miles off downtown Highland.

At this point, it’s unclear when the library board will come back to the public with a possible referendum date. But Highland Library still needs volunteers to help with the fundraising. Anyone interested in helping with the capital campaign can e-mail jkelsall@highlandlibrary.org or call 691-2275.