Elmore says ‘no’ to library funds
Elmore officials have said thanks but no thanks to $250,000 in federal funding to renovate a downtown building for a new library.
On a 2-2 vote Monday night, City Council members rejected a motion to accept a $150,000 grant and $100,000 loan from the USDA Rural Development Agency.
Acting Mayor Keven Sullivan and Jim Volz voted no, while councilmembers Pat Coupanger and Edrys Viland were in favor of accepting the funding.
“The length of time for payback of the loan was substantial. The amount paid back with interest would be double,” says Volz.
Under the USDA program, the city would have repaid the $100,000 over 40 years at an interest rate of 4.5 percent. The one-time annual payment would be around $5,000.
Cost to remodel the building at 107 E. Willis St. is estimated at $294,000.
Viland says she’s extremely disappointed because the new building will provide more space needed for the library.
“I feel really bad for the people who worked so hard to get us to this point. This is going to slow down the project tremendously,” she says. “I just wanted to move forward.”
The vote was a tie because a council seat remains vacant since Sullivan was appointed acting-mayor when Floyd Ford resigned in June.
Coupanger is convinced the outcome would have been different had there been five councilmembers.
“I was absolutely flabbergasted. We’re going to continue. The project is far from dead,” she says. “Too many people have worked several years on this. We’re going to fight for it.”
Sullivan says it’s not a question of whether the library is important to the community. Rather, can the city set aside funds to help with the annual payment if library supporters are unable to raise the funds.
“It’s difficult to prepare a budget not knowing how much in donations will be collected each year. In these times, it’s hard to budget $5,100 a year,” he says.
Sullivan also believes the cost of the project is too high because of federal requirements that must be met to obtain the grant and loan.
“When local residents volunteer and work together, you have a community library. It’s not a federally-funded project,” he says. “I think it can be done for a whole lot less money.”
City Clerk Dianne Nowak says she has contacted USDA officials to inform them of the board’s decision.
The federal funds are part of the Rural Development’s community facilities program, which helps finance essential facilities in rural areas such as child care centers, hospitals, medical clinics, assisted-living facilities, fire/rescue stations and libraries.
Volz says members of the library and “Friends of the Library” boards are confident they can raise enough money to get the new library up and operating.
He says with volunteer help the building probably could be fixed up a lot cheaper.
“The library is an important part of the community. We just think we can get it running ourselves without the extra costs,” Volz says.
Elmore residents so far have raised some $44,000 in donations, with most the money used to repair the roof of the building.