Evansville voters consider library borrowing

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

EVANSVILLE—Evansville voters face an unusual situation Tuesday: two referendum questions that give them three choices on one issue.

That one issue is the expansion of the Eager Free Public Library, 39 W. Main St.

The expansion would enlarge the library from its existing 6,785 square feet to between 15,000 and 16,000 square feet.

The cost would be about $4 million.

The first referendum question asks voters: “Should the Evansville Common Council, as the representatives of the citizens of Evansville, approve of borrowing $3 million (more or less) in order to contribute toward the cost of expanding the library, which would result in adding approximately $1 to the municipal mill rate if paid back over 10 years? (Example: $150 per year for 10 years on property valued at $150,000.)”

The second referendum question asks if the council should borrow the same amount of money but at a rate that would “result in adding approximately 60 cents to the municipal mill rate if paid back over 20 years. (Example: $90 per year for 20 years on property valued at $150,000.)”

The two referendum questions offer three choices:

-- Pay higher taxes over a shorter period of time. A taxpayer in a $150,000 home paying $150 would end up contributing $1,500 to the library over 10 years.

-- Pay a slightly lower amount in taxes toward the project over a longer period of time.
A taxpayer in a $150,000 home who paid $90 a year over 20 years would end up contributing $1,800 toward the library over 20 years.

-- The third choice is to vote “no” on both referendums.

The library was last remodeled in 1996, and many of the changes were designed to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, library Director Megan Kloeckner said. A small addition built at that time encompasses the checkout, computer area and the children’s area downstairs.

For several years, the library and its friends group have gathered public input and conferred with consultants on a possible expansion.

The current expansion plan takes into account the way libraries are used today, said Eloise Paula Eager, president of the library board of trustees and a direct descendent of Almeron Eager, who donated the money to build the library.

The library dates back to 1908. Even with upgrades added 20 years ago, the building doesn’t have the infrastructure to support modern technology.

The expansion plan calls for:

-- Increasing the teen and adult collections.

-- Increasing the amount of programming space in the children’s area.

-- A separate meeting and program room.

-- Quiet reading areas.

-- Expanded computer areas with flexible technology.

-- A larger and better-equipped local history room.

The library and its capital campaign group have already raised $600,000 in pledges and donations, Kloeckner said.

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