Fayetteville approves library millage in special election

Jennifer Price, Washington County Election Coordinator, and Max Deitchler, a member of the Washington County Election Commission, count early voting ballots Tuesday evening inside the Washington County Courthouse.

Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle

Voters approved a millage increase Tuesday that will help fund an expansion of the Fayetteville Public Library.

According to the final but unofficial results from the Washington County Election Commission, 3,615 voters (59 percent) cast ballots to approve millage Question One (maintenance/operations) and 2,549 voters (41 percent) voted against. For Question Two (construction funds), 3,437 (56 percent) were in favor, while 2,725 (44 percent) were against.

According to the results, 6,494 residents voted in the special election. Of those, about 1,700 people voted early and 200 returned absentee ballots.

By comparison, about 14,500 people voted in the Sept. 8 civil rights special election, with 4,100 ballots cast in the early voting period.

With the vote, the library’s current 1-mill property tax will temporarily increase to 3.7 mills.

The additional 2.7 mills will cost taxpayers an extra $54 each year for every $100,000 in appraised property value. It includes 1.2 mills for construction bonds and 1.5 mills for operating costs. Once the construction bonds are paid off, the tax will be lowered to 2.5 mills.

Officials will receive about $26.5 million from the millage increase to put toward a $49 million expansion of the library that will nearly double the size of the facility.

Early concepts show the addition of about 80,000 square feet of space and 115 parking spaces extending south across Rock Street, which would be closed between School and West avenues. The southern extension would include a two-story youth services division, a massive multipurpose area, a rooftop garden, and an open-air plaza that could host concerts and outdoor community events.

Architect Jack Poling of Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, said earlier this year use of the current facility’s genealogy collection, has increased by almost 60 percent in recent years, so a dedicated genealogy and local history department would likely be incorporated into the plan.

A rendering shows what an expanded Fayetteville Public Library could look like when viewing the facility from the south. The driveway area shown would be located where Rock Street currently runs between School and West avenues. The building to the right of the image is the current facility, and the structures to the left are the expanded areas that cross onto the old City Hospital property, including an open-air plaza for outdoor events.

Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle

Because of the elevation of the property and the envisioned design of the new buildings, the views of the mountains to the south would remain intact, Poling said, adding that the new facility will build upon the current library’s focus on energy efficiency.

Library officials hope to utilize the City Hospital property across the street as part of the planned expansion. The library has been working to finalize its purchase of the land from Washington Regional Medical Center, but that deal has been held up in court since descendants of the donors of the land first challenged the ownership in the Arkansas Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court. An appeal that would complete the $2 million sale has twice passed the courts, but the deal could remain tied up if the challengers continue their battle.

If the land purchase is cleared by the courts, Poling said a series of public meetings would be held starting in September to help drive the final designs of the project. He said documentation and bidding would begin in 2017, with construction following in 2018. If all goes according to schedule, Poling said the new facility could be open by 2021.

To learn more about the library’s plans and vision for expansion, visit faylib.org/expansion.