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Investment in library would be well worth it

More than a century old, the Dixon Public Library needs repairs and maintenance. We urge the City Council to work with the Library Board to finance the project.

Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 7:16 a.m. CST

The time has come for Dixon to invest in its library.

A  Library Board representative asked the Dixon City Council last week to help pay for maintenance that has been deferred, we believe, for far too long.

On the list of needed repairs and maintenance:

Roof work.

Boiler.

Windows.

Possible asbestos removal.

And more.

The leaky roof is a particular concern. When you are tasked with preserving thousands of books, not to mention computers, movies, music, periodicals, and other materials, you don't want water dripping on them.

What you want is an inviting place where people, young and old, can expand their horizons while making use of a vast storehouse of knowledge.

The library has made repairs to gutters and drainage, using donated money, but that source will go only so far.

The Library Board has determined that the necessary work could be done for $1.5 million.

The board can put up $300,000 of the money, meaning that the city would be asked to provide $1.2 million.

Several financial scenarios were discussed at last week's City Council meeting. Under one plan, the city would lend the $1.2 million, and the library would pay the city $100,000 a year until the no-interest loan was retired.

The repayment funds would come by increasing the library's tax rate from 17 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 25 cents. After the loan was repaid in 12 years, Library Board members would like to maintain the rate at 25 cents so money could accumulate in a capital improvements fund to keep current on necessary repairs.

In discussion, the thought was put forth that taxpayers would not have to pay any extra for the library work, because the city has some financial flexibility from its recovery last year of about $40 million from the Rita Crundwell thefts.

A second idea discussed might involve a transfer of funds by the city to the library, with no repayment expected, in the same way as the city gives money to Dixon Tourism or the Dixon Municipal Band.

However Mayor Jim Burke and the City Council decide to finance it, the work needs to be done. The Crundwell thefts that crippled city finances for more than 2 decades probably had something to do with the deferral of maintenance projects, so the return of millions of Crundwell dollars ought to be a signal to make such an important investment.

The City Council is expected to vote on the proposed loan Monday.

If our read of the situation is correct, we believe the city is on the same page as the Library Board as it works to renew its facility.

It's time to close the book on deferred maintenance. This is one request that should not be shelved.

 

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